There is often a lot of debate about optimal bench press technique, part of that debate is whether the elbows should be “Tucked” or “Flared” and at almost any powerlifting meet you will hear coaches cueing their lifters to “Tuck” or “Flare” depending on the each coaches preferred method for Bench Press, but what does it mean and which method is best ?
When using the tucking technique for the Bench Press movements the elbows are held close to the body, and for many lifters touching the bar lower on the chest. This places more emphasis on the triceps for developing power in the bench and takes strain away from the shoulders. This method of benching is of most benefit to powerlifters who compete using bench press shirts and those who may have shoulder problem. There are several drawback of this benching method including placing additional strain on the elbows leading to Golfers Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis), Tucking the elbows can bring them out of line with the bar (The bar should be directly above your elbows at all times), making the lift harder and and places strain on the forearms which at the extreme level can cause stress fractures or snap under heavy loads. Bench Pressing with tucked elbows also stops the lifter making optimal use of pectoral muscle during the lift.
When people say “flare the elbows” they mean that the elbows themselves are out away from the sides of the body. This allows for increased activation of pectoral muscles during the lift. Bench pressing with flared elbows has a reputation for putting a lot of strain on the shoulders particularly when an ultra wide grip is used in partnership with touching the bar high on the chest as is common with bodybuilders. A wider grip also decreases the distance the bar has to travel and for those with short arms who are suited to this style, it can be very successful.
Which is best for a Big Bench Press
The optimal position for the elbows is neither fully tucked or an extreme flare, the optimal position is at a point between the two opposing views. The key, is keeping the elbows in line under the bar while touching at moderately low point on the chest (within your powerlifting federation rules). This allows for good pectoral involvement in the bench press movement without placing excessive strain on joints or triceps. In this position the elbows will naturally flare the correct amount for your individual anatomy.
Are you unsure about your bench press form ? Do you live in Gympie or the Cooloola region ? I can be contacted via this page, Facebook, or just say hi when I am training or coaching at Gympie City Gym.