Bench Press Flared Elbows: Why Is This Happening?

Bench Press Flared Elbows: Why Is This Happening?

Bench Press Flared Elbows, What Is Going On?

A common problem I see in the gym with most people is when they are benching, their elbows are flaring out because they want to push as hard as they can. It’s like a fight or flight moment in your head when you’re about to push some massive weight up, all you’re thinking in your mind is “GET THIS BAR UP NOW”, and your form goes out the window and your arms flare everywhere. What I like to call this is the “Bench Press Flared Elbows” Syndrome. This syndrome affects a lot of lifters and if left untreated, could lead to some injuries that may prevent you from benching the best that you can! The problem lies with how you’re distributing your strength on the bench press. Most likely what’s going on when your arms are flared is that you’re using too much arm strength and not properly distributing the load among your other muscles! What’s going to eventually happen is that you’re going to stress out your shoulders and eventually even develop elbow tendonitis. You need to properly utilize all the muscle groups required for benching so that you’re less prone to injury and benching will eventually feel easier!


How To Identify If You Have The Bench Press Flared Elbows Syndrome

I suggest taking a video of yourself to see if your elbows are actually flared while you’re benching. If you are bringing the bar down too high up on your chest (towards your upper pec or your neck), chances are, your elbows are going to be flared. If your bar grip is narrow and you aren’t thinking of tucking in your elbows, your elbows are flared. A lot of times I see people just look at someone else benching and they imitate their form. The problem with that is that everyone has different arm lengths, different shoulder widths, so grip is something that should be almost unique to each person attempting to bench. Try gripping the bar normally, if you find that with your grip position, your elbows are already sticking out, you will have a higher chance of flaring out your elbows when the weight gets heavier.

Ok, I have the Bench Press Flared Elbows Syndrome, How Do I Fix It?

Ok, so you’ve addressed the problem, you found the source of the problem, how do you fix it? Before you get under the bar, stretch out your chest and your back. Get everything loose so nothing feels tight.

1. Widen your grip on the bar

The most common issue of flaring elbows on the bench is due to narrow grip, widen your grip so that you are at a 90 degree angle with the bar and your forearm, this provides a natural position so that it’ll be harder to flare out your elbows at the first sign of distress. At first this will seem unnatural to you and feel weird, it’s ok, you’ll get used to it, and your elbows will thank you.

2. Bring the bar down to your lower pectoral muscles

Make sure your bar path is straight down and straight up when the bar is moving, this ensures nothing funky is going on with your arms and it’s a uniform motion all around

3. Make sure your elbows are tucked while benching

If you keep your elbows loose while benching, it will impact on your elbow positioning while holding onto the weight. Keeping your grip tight and your elbows tucked in (preferably at a 45 degree angle), it will help ensure that your elbows are tucked throughout the movement. This is a crucial step to keep notice of while benching.

Bench Press Flared Elbows Is No Longer a Concern, Now What?

Great, now that you have new positioning for your grip and the bar, the whole motion may feel foreign to you, you might be sore in places you’ve never felt before because you’re properly utilizing your chest and not overloading your arms to push the weight up. Just remember, the key to a strong bench is making sure the muscles that need to be used are being used, you think the weight is really heavy, just calm down, lift the weight with proper form. You’d be surprised at how strong your chest is as long as there are proper contractions. I would take things slow with the weight, you shouldn’t jump back to the weight you were pushing before, decrease your weight by 10-20% and evaluate from there, once you’re comfortable, you’ll be hitting PRs in no time!

Additional Notes

There are some great resources out there on what the proper bench press form is. Unfortunately, there may be too many resources out there and it’s hard to find a definitive guide to follow. Until we come out with our own guide, we suggest checking out StrongLifts, they have a comprehensive guide that shows you how a bench press should be performed. Check it out here.

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