The Ever Elusive “Bench Arch”

My bench arch has always been a subject of discussion. Non competitors and even some actual competitors regard it as “cheating,” others view is as whoa she’s gumby.

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For those that don’t run around calling me a cheater (I’m not going to defend this to them, those of you who do compete know why I do it), I figure I’d share a little bit of info about how I work on my arch.

A little bit of background about me. Before I got into powerlifting, my childhood was spent in front of a ballet barre (about 12 years), and in a martial arts studio (for a small stint), and on a fencing strip (another short stint, about a year).

I managed to retain a good about my flexibility through years of dance and pretty good balance. It is important to understand when it comes to improving in your arch, what you cut in your ROM you have to make up in stability. Which makes sense, but try holding your breath and into into position, if you’re not turning borderline blue by the time you’re done with your set chances are you’re not tight enough. Bench correctly and all those little things you never thought would hurt will most definitely hurt.

Back to Arches.

Maryana Naumova

Maryana Naumova (benches 240 raw at 13 years old) has one of the sickest arches I’ve ever seen. My coach shared her picture on my wall. At some point this started dialog with my boyfriend (yes, a lot of what I write about comes from conversations with him) about mobility. So let’s start there.

The idea on how to arch well can come from really any sport that requires a good deal of flexibility. Think ballet or gymnastics. Gives you a good base, but we’re looking for the ability to hold that position, so I prefer to keep weight assisted stretching out of it. You want to train your body to get into and hold a position, not be forced into position.

On your To do list:

  • Wall Walks
  • Yoga Cobra Pose
  • Yoga Downward Dog
  • Shoulder Bridges

Have issues with any of those? Spend a few weeks laying on a small swiss ball or block and arching around it and reaching for the floor. With these stretches (and stretches in general) you want to go as far as you are comfortable. Be persistent, it takes time but you’ll get there.

Other non back body parts to work on keeping loose:

  • Chest
  • Anterior Delts
  • Lats

Final thought: As a ballerina I spent a great deal of time on my feet in a relevé en demi pointe position. All the foot flexibility allows me to really shove my feet far back below the bench to give me a nice stable base. I would advise you look into foot flexibility and strength if you’re a toe bencher.

On the to do list:

  • Toe Curls
  • Point and Flex (You can use a Thermaband to add resistance as needed)
  • Ankle Circles
  • Don’t forget to roll out your calves!

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