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'spreading the bar' during bench press
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Author:  H-Bizzle [ Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:31 pm ]
Post subject:  'spreading the bar' during bench press

I've read in the article on t-nation titled "8 badass bench tips" as well as some others that its important to try to pull the bar apart during bench press. The article above states that
the reason for this is that it turns on the rear delts and upper back muscles. In other articles (I can't remember where I read them but i'm pretty sure they were also on t-nation) the reason given was that one will get more tricep activation.

I tried this and it immediately killed my strength. The bar started to drop back to my chest and I had to jut press it back up normally.

I'm wondering if this technique is more for those who are after hypertrophy vs. limit strength, if I'm doing it wrong, if I'm just not advanced enough for this to work or if there is another problem that I haven't considered.

BACKGROUND: Started lifting august 21st 2011
Stronglifts: september 4th to present
DL 275x5
BP 155x5
Squat: 115x5
Barbell Row 150x5
Overhead Press 105x5

Height 5'10" or 178cm
bodyweight 220 or 100kg; still a lot of belly fat

Author:  Dub [ Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

What I'm feeling right now is the reason why your bench died while spreading the arms, is you focused on it too much. The bar splitting isn't the only function you need to focus on the top part of benching. One theory that popped into my mind is that your bench technique needs still more reps. By that I mean that you need to focus on getting the right movements to happen. Now, when you mix additional and intended tricep contractions to the mix, the tightness and total force drops. It's not just a bodybuilder trick or anything, it actually helps on Max effort work. Try it out more on light warm-up sets, and don't put too much thinking to the work set. It should come out. There is one exercise you could try if you have some sort of band near you. Wrap the band to pull your arms together and bench with lighter weight. It forces you to also produce energy to the triceps for the whole movement.

Weak triceps is one I was thinking also, but on the other hand, Bench will always need triceps and it's hard to replace the force with some other muscle (i.e. Squats with hamstring/quad dominance). Pectoralis major possibly. If you got it up normally it shouldn't maybe be about the triceps.

Anyway, the main point I see with this tip is to get your triceps more involved. When triceps contract, the elbow extends, the bar goes up.
The rear delt and possibly some of the scapular adductors get more activation if we think about the movement. Muscles like traps and rhomboids. But I can't see those helping the movement outside the important body stiffness.

Author:  Oscar_Actuary [ Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

my guess like dub probably said , is practice firing muscles in proper order by doing the lift often. Then tricks like that, you wil know when to really put into use, at what point in the lift, while also engaging the rest of the proper muscles
my 0.02

Author:  H-Bizzle [ Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

Ok great!

I'll try doing this technique with the empty bar and my warm-up sets.

As far as knowing at what point during the lift I should start spreading the bar, will that come naturally with practice or is there a cue I should be looking for? If not from then very start of the lift off the chest, then maybe about halfway up as the work shifts from the pecs to the triceps?

Author:  Dub [ Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

It's always arguable, but I would say the contraction is most important in the middle and top part before lockout. They say the triceps does majority of the work on the last third, so obviously you need to get those muscles as fired up as possible. But of course the muscle is active for the whole movement, maybe the littlest on the bottom part. The following I rely almost solely on my own experiences, and probably many people have their own habits and experiences. I realize that I start to split the bar apart somewhere a bit after the lift off, so somewhere in the middle is where it works for me.

Author:  Jungledoc [ Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

I've never heard that this cue did anything for the rear delts and upper back. As far as I know it's a way to increase tricep activation. But for it to work, you have to have your elbows flared (pointing straight out to the sides). Just try keeping the elbows tucked (use a very light bar) and think about the action of the triceps. You'll mostly push the bar forward, away from your face. And of course, most of us don't, and wouldn't want to start the bench motion with elbows flared, for the sake of shoulder health. So most of us start in a semi-tucked position. You probably flare your elbows unconsciously as the bar goes up, so that by the time the bar is 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up they are fully flared. At that point, the bar tethers the hands together so that the energy of the elbow-extension movement all goes into raising the bar. That's where the "spreading the bar" cue is effective.

But it's just one cue of many, and you have to make the whole movement one movement. It's not a different technique, just a cue to help you focus on one aspect of the movement. Yeah, practice it during your warmups, but be sure that you keep everything tight as you do.

Author:  H-Bizzle [ Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

I hadn't thought about the elbow positioning before.

I actually never flare my elbows and i'm very conscious of keeping them flared no more than 45 degrees during the lift until right at lockout. I do this to protect my
shoulders, but also because i'm hoping to be a powerlifter and don't really care about pec activation. I just want to get the weight up without getting injured.

I bet this is why the technique didn't work. I'm definitely going to experiment with different elbow angles on my next bench day and let you all know how it goes.

But before I do I would like to know how risky it is to flare the elbows in the final third or half of the lift? Also, do powerlifters do this?

Author:  Jungledoc [ Wed Jan 11, 2012 7:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

H-Bizzle wrote:
...because i'm hoping to be a powerlifter and don't really care about pec activation

This makes no sense at all. Why wouldn't a powerlifter care about pec activation? Why would a powerlifter want to leave out this important muscle?

H-Bizzle wrote:
But before I do I would like to know how risky it is to flare the elbows in the final third or half of the lift?[/quote}It is not risky, it is good technique. And it's not particularly exactly 1/3, just start 45 degrees, and rotate smoothly through the lift.

H-Bizzle wrote:
Also, do powerlifters do this?
Is Dave Tate a powerlifter?

Author:  Proper Knob [ Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

Jungledoc wrote:
Is Dave Tate a powerlifter?


Not any more.

Author:  H-Bizzle [ Thu Jan 12, 2012 3:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

"This makes no sense at all. Why wouldn't a powerlifter care about pec activation? Why would a powerlifter want to leave out this important muscle?"

Let me rephrase that. What I mean is that I don't necessarily care about getting more pec activation in the way a bodybuilder might. I only care about putting more weight on the bar. It is my understanding that one can bench press more weight by tucking the elbows, which also reduces pec involvement in the lift. As far as I know, body builders and others who are more interested in hypertrophy for its own sake tend to flare the elbows to get more chest activation despite the fact that less weight can be lifted and it carries a greater risk of shoulder injury.

Author:  Jungledoc [ Fri Jan 13, 2012 9:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

"Flared" and "tucked" just refers to the bottom position. By the time you reach lockout it's all the same.

My assumption was that power lifters flare because they can move more weight that way, but that it's riskier for the shoulders, and that a full tuck was the weaker start. Powerlifters want all the activation they can get, pec and otherwise.

Somebody jump in here and straighten us out!

Author:  H-Bizzle [ Fri Jan 20, 2012 1:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

I can't post links yet but there is an article and video on t nation called "Dave Tate's 6 week bench press cure" in which he teaches a powerlifting bench press technique very similar to what you've suggested jungledoc.

He recomends staying tucked until near the end of the press, at which time one should flare the elbows. There is also a lot
of other useful info in the video on bench press technique that I would recomend to anyone interested.

I've been sick this week so unfortunately I haven't been able to get into the gym to try out any of these suggestions yet. I'm hoping to start back monday.

Author:  Kjung [ Sun Feb 28, 2016 5:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

I've heard about spreading the bar before but don't know how to do it. Are there any videos showing how?

Author:  stuward [ Mon Feb 29, 2016 7:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

Kjung, The post from H-Bizzle mentioned a Dave Tate video. Do a search for that. Also this: http://www.strengtheory.com/why-you-sho ... -benching/

Author:  Jungledoc [ Mon Feb 29, 2016 4:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 'spreading the bar' during bench press

Kjung wrote:
I've heard about spreading the bar before but don't know how to do it. Are there any videos showing how?

There isn't much to see with this. It's not so much a movement as it is isometric tension. Try using a light band and do a shoulder pull-apart while laying on the bench and simultaneously extending the arms. Then do it with a bar, but very light. The OP back in '12 was having trouble just adding this to his usual bench movement. You don't want to focus on pulling the bar so much that you don't push the bar up!

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