There are so many myths about benching. On a regular bench, I've been told to bring the bar down until it slightly brushes my chest. I've also been told to not allow it to touch my chest, bringing it down so it is about an inch off my chest. If you bring the bar down to your chest, your elbows are bent even more, and they are not parallel to the ground. But when you use the chest press machine, people tell you not go past 90 degrees with your elbows when you bring the weight back. My question is, when you are benching, how far down should you go with the bar? And on the chest press machine, how far back should you also go?
Please review the following article. Keep in mind range of motion for any exercise is individual and ALWAYS should be based on the ability to control the external weight.
The researchers at PTontheNet.com have received various questions regarding range of motion, such as, “How far down should my client squat? Is rowing the bar to my chest dangerous? Should the bar touch my chest while performing a barbell bench press? How far should I move with resistance?” To answer these ROM questions, as well as future ROM questions/concerns, it is imperative to understand the BASICS. Applying the basics to your individual questions will provide you with the process to answer range of motion questions/concerns, leading you to a safe and effective exercise prescription.
In order to address the many issues regarding range of motion, it is essential to first understand the different ROM definitions for fitness.
- Active range of motion (AROM) exercises are performed when the individual voluntarily contracts the muscles to move the body segment(s) through its range.
- Passive range of motion (PROM) is movement via an external force. PROM is normally the greatest ROM.
- Usable range of motion (UROM) is a movement pattern that is challenged for a specific activity, sport or daily chore, without compromising joint stability!
- Resisted range of motion (RROM) is the ability to maintain a contraction while resisted. RROM will change in respect to goal, application of load, amount of fatigue, etc.
Traditionally, ROM is determined by how far the bar, machine or weight moves without regard to individual anatomy. This mentality may be valid if the goal is powerlifting (moving weight a specified distance based on RULES of the sport). For all other fitness goals, AROM can be used as a guide to determine individual control and range of ability before resistance is applied, (see AROM definition).
Resistance exercises that travel beyond the movement limits of individual AROM will increase risk. To appreciate/apply this comment, just watch the bench presser who performs "self CPR" because s/he did not control the deceleration of the weight. Using the chest as a trampoline is not healthy!
To stay within a safe and effective ”zone” and to answer the question, “How far should I move through the exercise?” utilize the above mentioned ROM definitions, along with assessing the goals, wants, needs and, most importantly, the individual's level of readiness. Your client’s body should determine the ROM of the exercise, not the outside force! Although the "more the better" approach may apply to improving the skill of performance, it may adversely affect the well being of the performer.