T Nation

Straight Back vs. Arched Back

On squats, deads, oly’s, rows, and basically anything you isometrically contract your back, is it better to have a flat back, or an arched back. Is it preference or is one better than the other?

Depends on the exercise. Deads, for example, should be performed with a straight back. A little thoracic rounding is acceptable, but the lower back should be straight. With squats you’re going to have to arch at least a bit to keep from leaning too far forward. How much you arch depends on the individual.

Benching is debatable. I personally use a high arch similar to a powerlifter, but others like to stay flat. My philosophy is that when struggling, most people tend to arch anyway, so why not go ahead and be set in the arch you want to have. As far as rows go, I’ve only ever seen them done with a straight-back.

rounding back will lead to injury. i cant even watch someone bend over with a rounded back without cringing, serious business.

Thanks for the advice. Just one more thing, what’s best on olympic lifts and front squats?

Your back should be straight at all times on bench unless your using a power lifting arch in bench, which is not recommended for the normal lifter.

You always have a straight lower back in squat.

Your lower back should be straight in deadlift until you get to ridiculous weights, 400+ pounds, and then you have to round your upper back slightly, but agian, your lower back is always straight.

Why the straight back with benching? How is the stress from the lift going to transfer down to the lower back with great enough force to cause injury?
I’ve never bought into the straight back while benching thing, I think it’s just a few doctors getting a little carried away with playing safe

[quote]Typhon wrote:
Why the straight back with benching? How is the stress from the lift going to transfer down to the lower back with great enough force to cause injury?
I’ve never bought into the straight back while benching thing, I think it’s just a few doctors getting a little carried away with playing safe[/quote]

Yeah, I don’t think there is any sort of danger to your back when benching. I think it’s more a question of ROM and the angle you are pressing at. An arched bench makes the lift similar to decline. Power lifters also tend to tuck there elbows in a lot more which takes stress off your chest. It really depends on what your goals are.

That’s all great about the benching thing… but i want to know more about the oly’s and front squat. I’m asking because I recently (3 weeks ago) had a back injury from hyper extending my back when i caught the weight after doing the jerk portion of clean and jerk.

I caught the bar to far behind my shoulders and hyper extended my back as a result. I was wondering if i could prevent this by catching the bar with a straight back as opposed to an arched back, or if i should be more careful about not throwing the weight too far back.

The injury was a sprain. What i’ve seen from videos is that in the catch portion of a clean or snatch, the back is arched (especially in the snatch). I’m not so sure about the jerk. I can’t tell and am wondering if someone knows. Thank you for anything ya’ll can tell me.

And yes, I know very well about not bending my back (hunching) on any lift, but that was not the question.

What? You wanna know more about benching?

haha jk

Make sure you get it right; back injuries will mess you up for lyfe yoZ!

I personally don’t know the answer to your question regarding arched back or straight back during olympic lifts, but my knowledge tells me:

The olympic lifts are a special breed of lifts do to their explosive nature. What it comes down to is getting the bar up to the front squat position as fast as possible so you can get as much weight as possible (depending on your goals). So, common sense would tell us that its nearly impossible to keep perfect form. However, if you strained your back, you are obviously bringing the bar up in a loop instead of straight up and down. This is common and you just need to work on the progressions.

You should be able to catch the bar with your back straight, if not slightly arched due to the weight. note that weak abdominal muscles will not be able to hold the back from hyperextension…so I’m not trying to say your’s are weak but they need to be very strong to properly support the olympic lifts.

Whoops…definately went on a rant about the wrong olympic lift, you were wondering about jerks.

However, the same concept still applies with your abdominals being strong enough. A good way to shore up those core muscles is very heavy front squats. Few exercises will challenge the absolute strength of your core musculature. I hear your cries though, because when I do heavy push presses, it is very hard on the back when you lower the bar with heavy weight.

Thanks bhetz864, that’s exactly what I needed to know. I had a feeling it might be due to some imbalance. I’ve only started doing direct ab work a couple weeks ago and i’ve already noticed that my core (front and back) has started feeling more stable and healthier.

When i get back to the oly’s, i’ll be sure to make a focused effort on contracting my abs to keep my spine from hyperextending again.

I got lucky all i did was sprain my back. I’m actually happy i did that in way because now i’m going to be sure to use proper form on all my lifts and not allow my ego take over.

I figure it was good to get injured while i’m not using retarded weights than to blow a disk later when i’m more capable of hurting myself.

I guess you could call it a wake up call.