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Lower Back Strain When Benching

Hello.
I’m curious if anyone else has had/heard of a hidious strain in the lower back when benching…
I got this helluva strain last time I tried to push a new PR…
I arch my back to get tight, but I keep my ass on the bench…

Anyways, I figured I was just pushing my limits too hard, and took off a few days, and today when I warmed up for some close-grip benchpresses, again I felt the strain in my lower back…

If you have any tips on stretches or the like that might help, I’d appreciate it… Or if you have experienced the same, how’d you counteract it?

Thanks, sincerly yours, Tears.

I have recently adopted an arching technique for bench, ala the Eric Cressey article. I haven’t noticed any lower back pain, but the arch I create isn’t that extreme. I’d ask one of the pro’s on the next Prime Time.

I’ve always had a sensitive back. I can thank my fathers genes for that. I only max out at 235 right now, but I don’t put my feet down on the floor when I bench. This keeps my back flat on the bench, but makes it much more difficult. Some would say that I could be putting up 20-30lbs more.

My guess is that your hips are excessively tight. When your hip flexor specificly is short, it puts your back at hyper-extension while flat on the back. When in this position pressing, and you’re already tight due to the above mentioned issue, you back tightens even more, and the end result is a strain. If you happen to arch your back, then this will make the issue even worse. Again, this is just a guess, but I’ve seen atyhletes with the same issues you’ve mentioned, and most of the time the hips are the issue.

I see a lot of people bench with their feet up in the air. I would assume that this would prevent back strain, but its definitely seems like more of a bodybuilding move than a powerlifting move.

Yeah, I bench with my feet in the air, or on another bench. This keeps my back flat. You won’t be able to bench as much like this, but it may save your back.

You could also try stretching your back before you bench.

Interesting… I’ve noticed, once specifically, that I can strain the back while benching.

I think what happened to me was that I was in danger of not making the lift, and without a spotter my brain decided it had better find a way to get that weight back up (it wasn’t a dangerous amount of weight or anything).

So, insane instinctive attempt at arching… a bit of strain in the back muscles.

Anyway, since its just a muscular effort issue, I just took it easy and didn’t worry about it.

If you are really struggling to get that weight up all the time you might need to use a different set up before you start benching.

[quote]vroom wrote:

If you are really struggling to get that weight up all the time you might need to use a different set up before you start benching.[/quote]

Or use a lighter weight or a better spotter. I was always shown by others who were into powerlifting that you keep your feet planted on the ground because you need a base of power. I think anyone recommending you keep your feet in the air is giving wrong advice. If it takes a conscious effort to keep your back from arching, then make it so. I don’t arch my back when I bench no matter how hard it gets. I taught myself to avoid it. The safety issue is also one reason I consider the barbell bench press the least productive chest movement once you start going heavy. I have no doubt there are many people being held back in their weight used due to issues like this…yet they won’t leave it for dumbbells simply because of tradition. Unless you are specifically training for a powerlifting contest, it may be time to let the barbell go. I feel it does its best job for rank beginners.

When I lift heavy, I also put my feet on the floor. When I’m lifting sub-85% I lift with my feet in the air. I think it makes the lift harder and forces me to concentrate on the muscle groups at hand.

That being said, ProfX benches more than I do :wink:

[quote]halftooth wrote:
My guess is that your hips are excessively tight. When your hip flexor specificly is short, it puts your back at hyper-extension while flat on the back. When in this position pressing, and you’re already tight due to the above mentioned issue, you back tightens even more, and the end result is a strain. If you happen to arch your back, then this will make the issue even worse. Again, this is just a guess, but I’ve seen atyhletes with the same issues you’ve mentioned, and most of the time the hips are the issue.[/quote]

Yeah, that just might be it, though maybe I should swallow some of my ego, and keep my back flat(er) on the bench, cause I’m not training for a meet, just for personal preference…

[quote]Professor X wrote:
I don’t arch my back when I bench no matter how hard it gets. I taught myself to avoid it.[/quote]

The reason I’ve arched my back is to get
tight, since it allows me to move a bit more of weight. Maybe I should keep arching the back solely for PR’s, or maybe I shouldn’t arch my back even then…?
But how do you, Proff X, get your body tight if not arching your back at all?

[quote]Tears wrote:
The reason I’ve arched my back is to get
tight, since it allows me to move a bit more of weight. Maybe I should keep arching the back solely for PR’s, or maybe I shouldn’t arch my back even then…?
But how do you, Proff X, get your body tight if not arching your back at all?[/quote]

If by “tight” you mean trying to force enough power by, much like martial arts, build it internally with everything you have, none of that requires arching your back unless you are doing some insane one rep max as in powerlifting. I learned a lot from powerlifters that I bring into my training, but I have no desire to go for only one rep maxes. If I can’t get a weight even one time, I drop the weight a little. My goal, even if it is a weight I have never done before, is to at least get it up 3 times. I have accepted 2 reps before and then kept working at it during following training sessions, but never one rep alone. Outside of a competition, no one cares what your one rep max is. It means very little in terms of DEVELOPMENT.

I don’t understand why you are doing “PR’s”. Why isn’t your training geared towards a constant progression in the weight used? For instance, about 2 weeks ago, I got my maximum weight used on the HS bench press for a total of 8 reps. I did the same this week but with much better control. Because of that, it is now time for me to move up in weight for that last set when I train chest next. PR’s mean shit outside of a powerlifting comp unless this is referring to the maximum weight you actually use for reps.

In other words, why are you doing this? I remember the last time I did a max was in college when I was first getting serious, and that was mostly because I was training with a bunch of other guys and the goal was to outdo each other. I am glad I grew out of that. It probably saved me some major injuries.

[quote]graphicsMan wrote:
When I lift heavy, I also put my feet on the floor. When I’m lifting sub-85% I lift with my feet in the air. I think it makes the lift harder and forces me to concentrate on the muscle groups at hand.

That being said, ProfX benches more than I do ;)[/quote]

I think you need to avoid that and work on learning how to feel that muscle work with your feet on the ground. It acts as a stabilizer for your entire body.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
If by “tight” you mean trying to force enough power by, much like martial arts, build it internally with everything you have, none of that requires arching your back unless you are doing some insane one rep max as in powerlifting. I learned a lot from powerlifters that I bring into my training, but I have no desire to go for only one rep maxes. If I can’t get a weight even one time, I drop the weight a little. My goal, even if it is a weight I have never done before, is to at least get it up 3 times. I have accepted 2 reps before and then kept working at it during following training sessions, but never one rep alone. Outside of a competition, no one cares what your one rep max is. It means very little in terms of DEVELOPMENT.

I don’t understand why you are doing “PR’s”. Why isn’t your training geared towards a constant progression in the weight used? For instance, about 2 weeks ago, I got my maximum weight used on the HS bench press for a total of 8 reps. I did the same this week but with much better control. Because of that, it is now time for me to move up in weight for that last set when I train chest next. PR’s mean shit outside of a powerlifting comp unless this is referring to the maximum weight you actually use for reps.

In other words, why are you doing this? I remember the last time I did a max was in college when I was first getting serious, and that was mostly because I was training with a bunch of other guys and the goal was to outdo each other. I am glad I grew out of that. It probably saved me some major injuries.[/quote]

Yep, you are right, that’s granted. A part of the reason for doing 1RM PR’s has been to try outdo others, and to see if I’ve progressed… But in all honesty it’s mostly the 'cause of ego, and the thought of how much “cooler” it’s to push 2,5-5 lb more for a 1RM, than for a 3RM… Sad, really…
Maybe it’s time for a change of…thoughts… Hehe…

Professor X, thanks for sharing your thoughts on bench press and the position of your back.

I know a lot of people who complain of lower back pain and noticed many of them seem to create a significant arch with their back. An article I read today for a second seemed to make me think about altering the way I bench. I checked out the diablobarbell videos and noticed powerlifters can arch even their backside right off the bench. If I’m not training as a powerlifter, to me it seemed far too intense on the spine. Then I read your post which confirmed my previous thoughts about maintaining a flat back and keeping feet planted for stability.

Keeping a flat back while pressing has meant I’ve had a pain-free back so far. People frequently comment that one must bench with an arch and flat barbell bench or they have got no idea how to lift. I’ve preferred to maintain a flat back with the HS bench and with flat and incline dumbbell bench and so on. I prefer the dumbbells and HS bench with the greater range of movement and allowing each arm to develop equal strength. Too often those who say I’m wasting my time are straining their backs with lop-sided presses.

I believe there has been some extremely bad advice given here. Arching the back when benching(not raising your but off the bench, but arching like in powerlifting) is not inherently dangerous unless you have a predisposed condition. This is the strength sports section so Im assuming this isnt for bodybuilding. In order to bench the most weight safely, you must have some arch on the bench. This not only allows more weight to be lifted, but it also shortens the stroke which is safer on the shoulders. Why not strengthen your lower back and stretch your hips so you are able to bench with an arch instead of working around it? Benching with the feet in the air is not only dangerous but limits the amount of weight you can lift. It is impossible to stay tight with your feet in the air.Your back was made to arch. Figure out why you are having problems and fix it.

You dont have to get a max arch every time either. I have different levels of arches but I always pull my shoulder blades together and push my chest up.

[quote]Tears wrote:
Professor X wrote:
If by “tight” you mean trying to force enough power by, much like martial arts, build it internally with everything you have, none of that requires arching your back unless you are doing some insane one rep max as in powerlifting. I learned a lot from powerlifters that I bring into my training, but I have no desire to go for only one rep maxes. If I can’t get a weight even one time, I drop the weight a little. My goal, even if it is a weight I have never done before, is to at least get it up 3 times. I have accepted 2 reps before and then kept working at it during following training sessions, but never one rep alone. Outside of a competition, no one cares what your one rep max is. It means very little in terms of DEVELOPMENT.

I don’t understand why you are doing “PR’s”. Why isn’t your training geared towards a constant progression in the weight used? For instance, about 2 weeks ago, I got my maximum weight used on the HS bench press for a total of 8 reps. I did the same this week but with much better control. Because of that, it is now time for me to move up in weight for that last set when I train chest next. PR’s mean shit outside of a powerlifting comp unless this is referring to the maximum weight you actually use for reps.

In other words, why are you doing this? I remember the last time I did a max was in college when I was first getting serious, and that was mostly because I was training with a bunch of other guys and the goal was to outdo each other. I am glad I grew out of that. It probably saved me some major injuries.

Yep, you are right, that’s granted. A part of the reason for doing 1RM PR’s has been to try outdo others, and to see if I’ve progressed… But in all honesty it’s mostly the 'cause of ego, and the thought of how much “cooler” it’s to push 2,5-5 lb more for a 1RM, than for a 3RM… Sad, really…
Maybe it’s time for a change of…thoughts… Hehe… [/quote]

Why is this sad if its what you want to do?

Stretching the hips.

Also, the force needs to be going through your feet-not through the but. This requires consciously flexing the hams and glutes and calves right before lift off. If you plant butt and traps, you are creating an arch out of your spine which the weight is “trying” to expand. If you arch feet to traps I think you avoid the whole load being on the spine.

[quote]RJay Floyd wrote:
I believe there has been some extremely bad advice given here. Arching the back when benching(not raising your but off the bench, but arching like in powerlifting) is not inherently dangerous unless you have a predisposed condition. This is the strength sports section so Im assuming this isnt for bodybuilding. In order to bench the most weight safely, you must have some arch on the bench. This not only allows more weight to be lifted, but it also shortens the stroke which is safer on the shoulders. Why not strengthen your lower back and stretch your hips so you are able to bench with an arch instead of working around it? Benching with the feet in the air is not only dangerous but limits the amount of weight you can lift. It is impossible to stay tight with your feet in the air.Your back was made to arch. Figure out why you are having problems and fix it.

You dont have to get a max arch every time either. I have different levels of arches but I always pull my shoulder blades together and push my chest up. [/quote]

It didn’t seem to me that they were using this in the context of powerlifting. It seemed to be for overall gains in strength. I think some may be confused if they didn’t expect the “strength” section to only be for powerlifting. I also made it clear, I thought, that my advice was not for powerlifting.

I imagine “strength” would be moving the most weight in the safest manner possible. My recommendations would fit this perfectly.

[quote]RJay Floyd wrote:
I imagine “strength” would be moving the most weight in the safest manner possible. My recommendations would fit this perfectly. [/quote]

And mine wouldn’t? You believe everyone should arch their back as they bench press? Why?