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BP ROM....My World is Falling Apart


I'm currently getting certified as a personal trainer (which is an extensive process in British Columbia, Canada) and have been training for about 2 and a half years.

Whenever i have did bench press, i have always touched my chest, always. I admit I even laughed at the guys that didn't, thinking that they were selling themselves short so that they could add more weight and inflate their egos.

Then a few days ago my world came crashing down on me. The instructor of my personal training course is a very respectable fitness professional. She has been in the business for years, has a kinesiology degree, very well versed and you can tell she really really knows her stuff.

Today the topic of bench press range of motion came up, i suggested touch chest... but she shot me down. I sat there for a few seconds speechless... then she explained something along the lines of:

Your benchpress range of motion should be your natural range of motion without a weight bearing load.... meaning as far as your arms go back without you stretching them back. Mark that spot. Now move it up 1 inch. Now, for ME, my natural range is about 3 inches off my chest, but with the weight of the bar, my range is easily pressed down to touch my chest. Using HER method, i would go about 4 inches above my chest, which would comfortably be over 90 degrees.

This has become a HUGE issue with me, not all because of the range of motion, but because of the amount of weight that i can press touching to chest compared to 4 inches above. I could add another 20 pounds to my bench instantly by going 4 inches above... but i've been lead to believe that going to 90 degrees uses mostly triceps, and your pecs only become the primary mover past that point.



"POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Partial or Full Range of Motion During the Bench Press
Diane Vives, CSCS

Optimum Performance Systems, Boca Raton, Florida

THERE ARE STRENGTH AND conditioning professionals who believe that limiting the range of motion (ROM) during exercises, such as the bench press, is necessary for increased safety and joint integrity. They suggest that the upper arm should never go below parallel at the bottom of the eccentric phase of bench pressing. These proponents of partial ROM training often provide contradicting information in the name of safety. They follow recommendations for partial ROM bench pressing side-by-side with full push-up and door frame chest stretches. The only difference between a full bench press, full push-up, and the door frame chest stretch is the matter of load. Improper loading and lack of progression are the main culprits of injury, rather than properly performing an exercise through an individual's full, functional ROM.

Before we can make these absolute recommendations we must consider some key issues. First, we must differentiate between an individual's anatomical and functional ROM. If a joint's anatomical ROM is 120?, there is no reason why an individual should be limited to training with less than that range unless there are functional abnormalities that would not allow movement through the full ROM. In this case, limiting the full, functional ROM would be prudent, and by doing this we maintain a ROM below the anatomically specified ROM, yet we are still performing within that individual's full, functional ROM. Second, individuals such as athletes are required many times to accept heavy stress near the end of their functional ROM. In these instances, training an individual through some arbitrary limited range does not prepare the target structures for the stresses that they will surely encounter. This will increase the likelihood of injury. Therefore, to make the recommendations for exercising through partial ROM without regard for individual differences and needs is ludicrous."

Strength and Conditioning Journal: Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 55?55.


Find out her opinion on deadlifting and squatting, if they're equally as lame then you can write off her opinion as bull for real world strenth/sports training.


doesnt seem like she takes technique into account either, what if you check your unloaded ROM for bench press keeping your elbows tucked instead of flared, dunno bout you, but i can sure as shit get below my chest level


I think this depends on body structure. For people with longer arms, limiting bench ROM (like doing board presses, floor presses, or just stopping 3 or so inches above chest) helps overcome their mechanical disadvantages.

The Bench Press isn't really a natural move in the first place, so who knows why she's basing limiting ROM off of that. I can understand limiting range based off of skeletal structure and the like (like basketball players, or lanky individuals).

Also, I think the pectorals are used to a greater extent when you tuck in your arms a bit more as opposed to "winging" them out (and I can go deeper as well when I tuck PL style as opposed to "winging").

Try this:
Stretch your arm out directly to the side like a DB lateral raise; now flex your pectoral.

Now, lower your arm about 45 degrees from where it was; now flex your pectoral.

For mer personally, the second position allows me to flex my pectoral easier (better leverage for the pectoral I would assume).

Good luck on getting certified and stuff. How far through the program are you? I was thinking about getting certified when I head off to college.


Yeah i can see her point for certain individuals...

I would be included in that group. I'm an ex rower... so needless to say i'm tall and lanky, stereotpyical ectomorph.

I'm gonna give the 3 inches off chest a try, it will be a nice ego boost to slide an extra 10lb on each side :smiley:


You can't touch your chest with an unweighted implement? If I just sit up or lay on a bench and pantomime the bench press I can easily bring my hands to a point where the bar would be in my chest.

Maybe I'm not understanding your post, but it seems to me if you can't touch then you have a problem that needs fixed.


Her method is great...if arms are unequal lengths. Say for instance one 6 inches longer than other.


I'm sure she didn't tell you how to bench press like a powerlifter either :wink:


Don't worry about it. You'll meet many people with different opinions as you go. Listen to them, take what's good and don't worry about the rest.

I even tell my clients "some ppl disagree with me on this but this is how I do it and why" and if they're uncomfortable with it, we don't do it. There's always an alternative.


I'm with you on this one. I do some things different than others or convention, and if they don't like it we can find another route.

I am 6'1 with long arms, and I bench to chest. Period. If you do not come to the chest, to me it is not a Bench Press. I've worked my max over the years up to 345/2.


I stopped reading when you said "she".




Having worked as a personal trainer in a commercial gym, and also having spoken with many experienced people in the fitness industry, this is my take on these type of issues.

I've discovered that many trainers and those in the training field go the "safe" route when it comes to training advice. This is why many trainers will stay away from heavy squats and deadlifts, and teach partial ROM on the bench. When you are training lots of different people and having to often give short answers to people in the gym all the time, it is a lot easier to give "safe" answers to keep people from getting hurt. There are liability and insurance issues involved, too.

For example, most of the trainers in my gym used partial ROM on bench, and I was one of the few that did full ROM. Since I want to do a powerlifting meet someday, I have to do full ROM. But when you train lots of different people -- everyone having different anatomical make-ups, injury histories, and level of exercise knowledge -- it is just easier sometimes to give the same advice all the time.

Also, you get people who come up to all the time in the gym that just want to know, "Hey, should I touch my chest when I bench, because someone told me you'll mess up your shoulder that way." These people usually don't know a whole lot about exercise and anatomy, and don't want a 5-10 minute answer. So instead of going over: (a) do you have a history of shoulder injuries or have had problems in the past (b) what is your bench style (elbows out or elbows tucked, arched back or not, etc.) (c) what is your main goal in training (looks, strength, sport performance) (d) what max bench would you be happy with? -- Then after going over all of these things, then you'd have to see for yourself their bench style, teach them to bench correctly, and then tell them that there is no problem for the majority of people with full ROM benching. But if you want to get to super-strength levels (300+ in bench) - then no matter what, you might get injured (torn pec, shoulder issues, etc.).

-- Instead of doing all of that - sometimes it's just easier to answer the question with, "It depends, but the safer route if you just want to get healthier and look good is just to do partial ROM, but most people with healthy shoulders will have no problem with full ROM, as long as you bench properly." Short 10 second answer they were looking for.

Same goes with deadlifts and squats -- you don't always know the person's injury history and they don't always give all the details. And unless you're a back expert, it's difficult to give answers to people without knowing in detail what you're dealing with. So most trainers just go the safe route and don't do heavy deadlifts and squats, if they even do them at all. It's just easier and saves them the scare of potentially hurting someone.

So I am a strong proponent of heavy squatting and deadlifting, full ROM bench, olympic lifting, and other things that many trainers don't like. But I sympathize with these trainers because I know why they hold the beliefs that they do -- it's just easier sometimes. And for the majority of people who just want to get healthy and look better through exercise, their advice is OK. So they can train 90% of the population just fine.

But if someone wants to bench 300 lbs. some day, or wants to gain 50 lbs. of LBM, or wants to be a professional athlete of some sort, then these trainers will probably not be able to help. But I can help someone with these goals. I mean, do you think they allow partial ROM at the NFL combine (I don't know for sure, but I'd be highly surprised if they allowed half-reps).

This is why I stopped training at a commercial gym.


Good post, man.



Did you happen to ask her why she thought that and could she back it up with anything, or did you just say "yes maam" like a good robot?




Better answer than mine.


hey man,

  Are you talking BCRPA?? If so, the majority of that certification is shat and anything you learn will be extra stuff from your instructor.  Trust me I took that stuff.

I agree with everyone else about the injury history of the client etc. Basically unless they have shoulder issues I tell them to the chest.


What is a "natural move"?