T Nation

Bench Press, Hypertrophy vs Strength


Is there a very large dichotomy between benching for hypertrophy and benching for a higher weight at a given set of reps?

I have been using a big arch and tucking my elbows and I can definitely do more weight than with my back flat or my elbows flared.

My main goal is hypertrophy (175lb BW, 6', 200#1RM currently) and I thought it was better to lift heavier weights any way you can for hypertrophy.

I searched in Google for "How Much Ya Bench" and ironically it turned up two articles by the same name, one from Mike Robertson and one from Charles Staley that prescribed a completely opposite set of parameters.

Staley claims flared elbows and flat back are better for hypertrophy.

I am thinking that's not true, and that proper bench technique is proper bench technique...heavier weight is better gains.

The question:

For hypertrophy+strength (as opposed to one or the other, durr I know they come together, but my goal is BOTH not one specifically) what bench form do I use

And do you call BS this, or what?



More of a question of what you are looking to hypertrophy??? The way you are benching is using a LOT more tricep as oppsed to the flared out slow eccentric maybe a pause nailing the chest more taking away that stretch reflex etc.

Your luck a LOT of it is expleined in the article just yesterday by CT. Read there.

I say use both, mix it up, work toward your goal.


I use Waterbury's principles on total volume.

I bench 6 sets of 6 reps for 36 total reps. He has a volume index you should take a look at.

I believe here are a few.

max strength + hypertrophy would be a 6x6 for 36 reps

max strength
8x3 for 24 reps

max strength for cutting
5x5 for 25 reps

I'm pretty sure the total volume is supposed to be between 24-48 reps or something like that.

I can't remember exactly.

But its based on total volume.


As for form. Just explode up and keep some tension on the way down. TUT time under tension is good for hypertrophy, and explosive movements are good for strength.

Thats what I hear. Who knows.


I've seen the 24-50 rep thing, excellent info IMO. I'm doing ABBH. the rep guidelines are in "The Set-rep bible" by CW.

I am thinking that it would be good for me to use the flared arms and the tucked elbows alternatingly, but what's your take on it, Mr Pushups: flared arms for more chest participation, or tucked elbows for more weight overall? Arch the back or not?


Technique Vs Weight

I don't know about everyone else. But for me. More weight just means more strength. And better technique will be greater hypertrophy, especially in a bench press. If I dropped 100lbs off of my press I could try to target for hypertrophy and chest stimulation. If i jack the weight up, I'll definitely be using more muscles to get it up.

Example :
1-3 reps with max weight is alot of chest, back, shoulders and triceps.

1-3 reps with a heavy but not max weight, with isolation technique. Will probably be better for hypertrophy for the chest. But what are you trying to build?

4-6 range is getting closer to hypertryophy + strength

7-10 mostly hypertrophy with limited strength

11-16 very little strength,less hypertrophy,and more endurance

17+ forget strength, hypertrophy is now based on frequency, all endurance now

My guess: use 6x6 but with solid form, and decent weight. Screw tempo!

blast it up, drive from the elbows & get a good negative.

nuthin' to it.


Screw the tucked elbows!
Stretch out those pecs and get a good chest press.
Yes, wide grip for chest, just use the hands as hinges, drive from those elbows. the bottom third of the movement is really where you want to explode with your pecs. I don't lock out either, it takes the tension off of the chest, and the top1/3 is too much triceps for me.

I like the bottom 1/3 of the movement, and I hate the top part. My chest could push 50-100lbs more if my triceps would let me. I'm trying to jack my triceps up right now to increase my overall bench. Triceps are a real weak part in my bench. I push 350 now, but could do 400 if i could ever get my darn triceps strong enough.


I'm trying to build a well rounded physique currently, so when I bench press preferably it hits my chest and triceps and shoulders. If one gets hit more than the others that's okay, but I don't wanna have huge arms and tiny tiny pecs. I got a good chest pump today anyway, with the elbows tucked and back arched, but I'll probably bench next time pressing the bar "in" to isolate the chest more, and maybe flare my elbows.

I'm doing pre-made programs by CW so I'm not worried about how many reps I'm doing - I've done 80%@10x3, 10x4, and today it was 10x5 on bench...other days are 5x10 always, with increasing weight. Standard ABBH

So what I've gathered thus far is...my best option for a combined goal of hypertrophy and strength, in terms of my bench press form, is to alternate between

A) Using as much weight as possible and tucking my elbows and arching my back (Heavy weight's good for strength, and heavy weight is also good for hypertrophy! yeehaw)

B) While arching back "pushing in" on the bar and allowing my elbows to flare (Read Bulk Up Cut Up #2 by CT) during some workouts - less weight, but more chest isolation

C) Faring elbows and flattening back (yech!) in order to increase variety, it can't hurt.


forgot the arched back thing.

depends, do you want to target your chest or not?

when i first started benching i was only about 10 and used just the bar. after while i put the weights on, and as it got heavier I starting arching. I ended up with powerful delts. didnt start developing a solid chest until i flatened out and just said Fuck the weight. I'll just push as much as i can with my chest. Well i built the chest and now have to pay the price for weak tri's. But I was after a huge chest. I didnt care about strength or weight.


Now I'm thinking of diving my time: 1/3 arched back, tucked elbows, 1/3 flared elbows, flat back, 1/3 flared elbows, flat back, static inward pressure on bar. Variety. Think I'll try that out for a while.


CW: How to build a huge chest in 6 Weeks


John Parrillo was the first person I wa aware of who really addressed bench bench technique for the best chest stimulation.

What's worked for me, and is now second nature...Consciously squeeze your shoulder blades together and push your chest out (without arching). I make sure my elbows are flared and in the ideal position by using a thumbless grip with my hands gripping the bar with what almost looks and feels like a 45 degree angle. I've never had any shoulder or elbow issues doing this (but don't do this on a Smith Machine).

It was awkward at first, but now there's not much of a difference between my max bench weight using this technique as opposed to a looser bench form where I'm using alot of tricep strength.

Personally, I've had alot of recent success doing multiple sets of 3 using a 4-5 rep weight, thinking an explosive concentric, and not worrying about tempo.

If you're following something like the Westside, Waterbury, or Thib concepts of conjugated periodization where you do a strength type workout followed a few days later by a hypertrophy or speed type workout, you might try some of the chest idea in Thib's last 2 articles...it's really useful. Wider grip benches to your clavicle, 1 1/2 reps, low pulleys attatched to forearms during bench work would all be worth a shot during your speed/hypertrophy day. Sometimes a subtle change in execution can make a world of difference.

The cable bench presses (especially if done in an X fashion with a wide elbow flair at bottom, and an X type hand position at top) are something thats made a noticeable difference in my chest recently.


My opinion and the opinion of everyone who I have talked to that is a lot stronger than me, is to bench with elbows in on the flat bench. The elbows out, flat back, bodybuilding style press does nothing but fuck your shoulders in the long run.

For chest specific hypertrophy, dumbbell bench and dips are a better choice anyway.


Do you guys actually read the articles on this site? The last two by Christian Thibaudeau talks about this issue EXACTLY.


i do 10x2 for strentgth, and i then drop the weight and do 3X5 wide grip, sets the way Cy described in his article prior to the one that is at the top now


Excellent post! Spot on.



The question was really "for maximum hypertrophy what is the best for to use for bench press?" (and for that matter, even development of chest/triceps and SAFETY are important here)

I have read CT's article, in fact I read it before I made this post. The reason I asked was because in another recent article Mike Robertson and Eric Cressey seem to advocate the "power lifting" style for EVERYONE, ALL THE TIME on bench press.

They know their stuff when it comes to injuries. Cressey said your shoulders will get messed up from "flared elbow" style.

Charles Staley and CT advocate flared elbows for chest development, but Chad Waterbury seems to be somewhere in between, and says that you have to do things other than bench press to get a big chest anyway.

There isn't a clear cut way to do it, so I asked the question.

Do you read the articles on the site? If you do, I'm sure you can understand why I asked the question.


Viking, thanks for the post.

That is basically the reason I asked. In Robertson's "How much do ya bench?" article he seems to say that everyone should bench "PL" style. Heck, my pecs are sore after I did 10x5 powerlifting style yesterday.

I think my conclusion is to follow Waterbury's programs and use the tucked elbows and arched back sometimes since it definitely hits my pecs fairly well, and to sometimes use a very wide grip and static inward pressure on the bar. I do dips as well, as per ABBH, so I think my pecs will not be terribly neglected.


I guess you should take this issue up with CT, EC, and MR. My opinion is that you can use low enough weight with higher reps-sets to "isolate" the pecs while making sure your shoulder is OK.


I agree, I think I can get the best of both worlds (heavy weight and ideal isolation) by alternating the two techniques.