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Thread: Arching back on shoulder presses

  1. #1
    Senior Member Darcy Tucker's Avatar
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    When I do shoulder presses I find I can lift more weight when my back is arched up against whatever is supporting it.
    Is what I'm doing dangerous and what are the benefits if any?

  2. #2
    Wannabebig Moron The Cobra's Avatar
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    What you are doing IS potentially dangerous. The reason you are lifting more with that technique is because you can recruit more muscles. By arching your back, the angle of your extended arms with your torso is not at all 180 degrees. It's closer to around 130 degrees give or take, depending on the severity of your arch. By doing this, you're creating a kind of incline press. You're recruiting the chest the further you arch your back. You only have to look at the olympic lifting styles of pressing back before the lift was taken out of competition to see the amazing amounts of weight people can press with an arch in their back when overhead pressing. You're hyperextending your spine when you arch like that, and the compression that puts on the dorsal side of your spinal column is pretty extreme. Don't arch like that.

  3. #3
    Reborn hero Sinep's Avatar
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    That's a very good post Cobra.. I never thought about that myself (I rarely think ).

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  4. #4
    Tuna Freak Frankster's Avatar
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    yeah, good post... and sinep, we know that ;P
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  5. #5
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    ya i have to agree that was a good post
    i have to admit that when doing shoulder presses i'm doing the exact same thing. sometimes i causes pain in my spine but i thought it was just normal. now i know it is not so.
    for now on whenever i do shoulder presses i will no arch my back.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Darcy Tucker's Avatar
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    I think I'm either going to make sure I stop arching my back or do shoulder presses on the highest possible incline. Just a bit less than 90 degrees. Jason Arntz does this and says it takes away all strain from his rotator cuff.

  7. #7
    MACHINE
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    If what you want to get from shoulder presses is ultimate front delt stimulation, avoid arching your back at all. Keep your abs tight and press your lower back flat against the back support of the bench. You won't be able to use as much weight, but you will exhaust your front delts much more quickly because you've isolated them so well.

  8. #8
    Kaboom.. ??
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    Yeah, I too found myself arching my back sometimes when i do my shoulder presses.. (cack told me it was arnold press that i was doing... eh...) this post will change my form!.. good post

  9. #9
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    Gino hit the nail on the head. I used to arch my back and it puts too much pressure on the lumbar region of the spine. I used to get serious backache cos of this. Now I use lighter weight but with very strict form 2 conc 4 ecc and laugh at all the other fools nearly snapping their backs just so they get a bigger ego. Do you all train using the 2 up 4 down method? It hurts the ego a little but it`s worth it in the end.
    Rememeber after every dark night, comes a bright day so no matter how hard it gets stick ya chest out, keep ya head up and handle it ! - Tupac shakur

  10. #10
    Proud Father Maki Riddington's Avatar
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    I absolutely agrree with Gino,to place more of the load to the shoulders exhale and pull the belly button in as you lift.This will activate the transverse abdominus which does a much more efficient job of taking the place of a weight belt.


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  11. #11
    Soon to be lean... Joe Black's Avatar
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    good post....

    I think I will actively try and concentrate on this when I next perform shoulder press as i think I may let my back arche slightly..

  12. #12
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    Hulk - prepare to take a blow to the weight room ego. My barbell shoulder press went from 195 for sets down to 145 when I first started using this form a year ago. My shoulders are bigger and better than ever before now though, so I don't mind not pressing as much as Johnny Beefcake in the gym, as long as I look better than him.

  13. #13
    Soon to be lean... Joe Black's Avatar
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    too right

    I donlt care what I look like as long as they grow...

    Although I will probably have to bite my toungue as I use lighter dumbells..

  14. #14
    Wannabebig Moron The Cobra's Avatar
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    I hate to say this.. But still.. Gino, how much ya' bench? I'm curious. No, I'm not trying to insult you or anything. I'm curious on the proportion of weight you bench to what you shoulder press. I know most people don't max shoulder press, so give me a similar rep range (ex - 155x8 on Shoulder press, 225x8 on bench).

  15. #15
    MACHINE
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    My first set of barbell shoulder press in a workout NOW is about 165-170 x 8. The first set in my last barbell bench workout was 235 x 10.(I think?) I'm not very strong on pressing movements thanks to my long ape arms. They help me out when I'm deadlifting, though!

  16. #16
    Senior Member Darcy Tucker's Avatar
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    What do you guys think of slightly arching your back on incline bench presses. I never arch my flat benching but on incline I feel more comfortable if I do a tad wee bit. I'm assuming it is not near as dangerous as arching while shoulder pressing.

  17. #17
    MACHINE
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    I arch my back on ALL chest exercises. I either arch or don't arch on pressing movements(chest, shoulders) not because of how safe it is, but rather because of how effective it makes the exercise.

  18. #18
    Wannabebig Moron The Cobra's Avatar
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    Gino, 235x10 is not weak. Okay, your shoulder press/bench ratio is right around mine. I wonder if most people have that kind of ratio? (About 3/5).

    Darcy, if you arch your back on inclines, you're almost defeating the purpose. Arching your back will make your pressing less of an incline, closer to a flat bench press. And that kind of defeats the purpose of inclines. As for benching with an arch in your back, if you have well developed glutes, you have no choice.. (*wink* Shout out to all the squat-asses out there!) Benching with an arch is dangerous if you're a bodybuilder. It serves no purpose except to increase your poundages. It won't increase muscle stimulation (to any reasonable degree). If you want to arch your back when flat benching, just go to the decline bench and do decline presses. It's safer on your back.

  19. #19
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    I think the degree of back arch in most exercises will depend on lot on how you are built individually. There is no problem with back-arching as long as it is not too excessive. According to Fred Hatfield, arching of the back in the bench press will involve more of the lats. So, if you are benching for pure power arching the back may contibute for some. If you are benching for chest developement, then I think you may wish to minimize arching. On shoulder movements, I think some arching is quite acceptable. I remember watching the great Russian lifter Aleexiev (spelling?) performing an overhead press with some ridiculous poundage and a severe arch of the back. My point is that if your back is strong, arching will not cause you harm. Please don't take this as an endorsement of training with too much of an arch, but I certainly think a little is acceptable.

  20. #20
    Wannabebig Moron The Cobra's Avatar
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    You're exactly right, Chris. That's the point I was trying to get across. When you arch, you get more muscles involved, and you get a bigger poundage (you also shorten the distance the bar has to travel). But this isn't the goal for bodybuilders. And Alexyev is the greatest olympic lifter period. One thing though, the guys that did the olympic press did ab training like no one on earth. Their abs were strong as hell! When you hyperextend your abs, it's not your back muscles supporting you so much as your abs. Remember that people, and be careful! Include ab work for your safety, not only for looks!

  21. #21
    MACHINE
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    #1) "...if you arch your back on inclines, you're almost defeating the purpose. Arching your back will make your
    pressing less of an incline, closer to a flat bench press..."

    If you are arching your back equally on flat AND incline press, the incline press won't be any closer to the flat bench angle than if you stayed flat for both. It's all relative. Also, not much of an incline is really needed to effectively stimulate the upper chest, and the lower the incline you can get away with, the less front delt involvement there will be.

    #2) "Benching with an arch is dangerous if you're a bodybuilder. It serves no purpose except to increase your poundages. It won't increase muscle stimulation (to any reasonable degree)"

    I've been doing it for 10 years safely. Then again, the natural arch in my back is larger than average and I do have a squatters butt. Also, the way I position my shoulders during the bench press(flat AND incline) REQUIRES me to arch my back. Since I converted to this pressing form I've had to DECREASE my weight and I find that my pecs are stimulated much quicker now.

    #3) "If you want to arch your back when flat benching, just go to the decline bench and do decline presses. It's safer on your back."

    Once again, it's all relative - if I arch my back on the flat bench, wouldn't I arch it just as much on the decline? If so, then the pressing angle would be very different from the flat bench, and like you said, more muscles would get involved in the movement.

  22. #22
    Wannabebig Moron The Cobra's Avatar
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    Valid point. It is all relative, to a degree.

  23. #23
    MACHINE
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    Great post everyone. Good points.

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