Alot of articles I read say to retract the scapulae (shoulder blades) before you start a bench press. My question is: are they supposed to stay retracted throughout the motion, or be extended at the top? Any help would be much appreciated.
Retracted the whole way through. The point as far as I know, as a powerlifter, is to A) give yourself a more stable base, and B) (if you're a powerlifter at least) to shorten the range of motion.
Thank you very much. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my newbie questions.
What Salty said. I was also confused back when I first heard this. But just for fun, put a decent amount of weight on the bar and try it both ways. Do a couple of reps where you let your back flare and a couple where you hold it tight. You will be amazed at the difference in controlling the bar.
Keeping the shoulder blades back gives you a more stable base to push off of for powerlifting as well. Also, if your goal is muscle growth, you want to keep emphasis on the taget muscle as much as possible, that being said, when you bring your sholder blades foreward, emphasis leaves the pecs and transfers to the shoulder and triceps, as well as your joints! which is NO GOOD. So keep those shoulder blades back no matter what your goals are. Good luck!
Flaring your shoulders with a heavy bench leaves you more open to injury as well. If you like/want that full range effect where you get your shoulders into the movement, add flyes to your routine and go easy on the weight till your shoulders can handle it. Often, at least with beginners, your muscles will get stronger faster than your joints and connective tissues allowing you to lift more than is reasonably safe.
Rambling, point is, keep your shoulder blades back and tight through the whole movement so you've got a solid base to push off from and a shorter distance from chest to lock out.
When I first started lifting I would actually make sure my shoulder blades were forward (I thought that was the correct posture). I did it this way for about two years before switching. My chest grew very minimally. However, my triceps and shoulders got a hell of a lot stronger. Even today I think my chest is lagging compared to my tricep strength. Not only that but I have had shoulder injuries on and off since then, at least partially due to that I'm sure.
I would say this is such a bad idea it is not even worth experimenting with. Setting yourself up to get hurt... Knowing you shouldn't have will do you no good in the long run.
why is this a bad idea again, specifically?
I think as long as 'a decent amount of weight' doesn't get misconstrued as 1RM it shouldn't lead to any issues. However, I seriously don't think that purposly performing an exercise with bad form just to show you the benefits of good form is a good idea,
I never meant to go all out. That's just one of those "Duh" things I expect people to get. But since a lot of people don't retract there shoulder blades while benching, it's unlikely that using a small amount of weight just to get the feel will result in injury. And just for the record, by decent amount, I was only referring to some number more than the bar, not 2x bodyweight.
Exactly...which is why I asked for explanation on why this is a bad idea. There's nothing wrong with trying different forms, flared or unflared, wide or narrow...that's how people learn.
Also, retracting the scauplae stretches the pecs, and allows them to be at a more advantageous length as you move your arms through their ROM.