Tag: strength training

Raising the Bar: Analyzing Grip Widths and Bench Press Performance

How much do you bench? With the bench press being one of the most popular and effective ways to build muscular size and strength, this question will be asked in weightlifting circles forever. Whether motivated by gaining otherworldly strength or sculpting a dream physique, a large bench press is coveted by gym goers around the world.

The bench press is an upper body weight training exercise where an individual lies on a flat bench with their feet on the floor while repeatedly lowering and raising a loaded bar. The bench press is often broken down into two phases: the eccentric phase (lowering bar to touch chest) and concentric phase (pressing the bar off the chest). When building a strong bench press, nothing is more important than a weightlifter’s technique when performing the movement.

While sounding like a relatively simple exercise, the intricacies of the bench press form largely surround where a lifter grips the loaded bar. The width of an individual’s hands on the bar during a bench press, commonly called grip width, plays an important role in muscular activation and force exertion during the lift. Grip widths are often measured with respect to shoulder width, or bi-acromial distance, in three different grip lengths: wide (around 1.7 times shoulder width), medium (1.4 times shoulder width), and narrow (shoulder width).

Wide, medium, and narrow bench press grip widths examples
Bench Press Grip Widths by Barbell Rehab

The bench press activates three primary muscles: the pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, and the triceps brachii. Muscles in the body have directional fibers that sustain loads most effectively when moving along the direction of their fibers. 

Muscles activated during the bench press: triceps brachii, pectoralis major, anterior deltoid
Primary Bench Press Muscles Highlighted Photo by Edward Lord

With different grip widths, weightlifters naturally have different levels of shoulder abduction, shoulder rotation away from the centerline of the body, and elbow positioning during the exercise. Grip width impacts muscle activation because different levels of shoulder abduction and elbow positioning align better with the directional fibers of the primary muscles in the bench press. For example, a study explained that grip widths wider than 1.5 times shoulder width resulted in shoulder abduction greater than 45°. When this angle increases the anterior deltoid becomes more involved in the bench press. The largest muscle activated in the bench press is the pectoralis major. The grip width variation that activates the pectoralis major most effectively exerts the most force. The pectoralis major is activated most with the medium and wide grip widths.

In addition to varying levels of muscle activation, different grip widths also play a key role in an individual’s ability to exert force. Most failed bench press repetitions occur at the bottom of the bench press, in a region called the “sticking position”. In the sticking position, the primary muscles activated in the bench press are put in a poor position to exert the forces required to move the loaded bar. A biomechanical study explains that the medium and wide grip widths place the shoulder in more advantageous positions in the sticking position to move greater loads when compared to the narrow grip widths. 

However, one study found that grip widths larger than 1.5 times shoulder width leaves the shoulders in a more vulnerable position for injury. Therefore, the safest and most optimal bench press grip width is a medium grip, around 1.4 times shoulder width, to maximize muscle activation, force exertion, and reduce risks of shoulder injuries. 

To learn more about the biomechanics of the bench press check out these papers by Calatayud and Tillar.

How Lower Body Mechanics Unlock Performance in the Pitching Delivery

Why can some pitchers throw 105 mph and some only 85? Baseball players are continuously trying to throw the ball faster and hit the ball further. The lower body muscles, especially the gluteus maximus/medius, adductors and and other pelvic movers, are essentially what power the throw and what can directly increase pitch velocity. Learning how to efficiently use the muscles in the lower body while pitching will allow players to optimize their performance, train correctly off the field, and prevent injuries.

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Egan Mills and Blake Kusky Discuss Eccentric vs Concentric Weight Training

Bodily movement without eccentric and concentric motion is impossible. When it comes to weight/strength training, the portion of the movement that tends to be more focused on is the concentric portion. In this analysis, the effects of both eccentric and concentric weight/strength training will be fully fleshed out with both their positive and negative results.

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The Ultimate 2-for-1: the Power of Contralateral Strength Training

For the competitive athlete, injury often means loss. Loss of playing time, loss of skill development, and most importantly, loss of training time. These are all unfortunate consequence of getting a bone or tissue injury requiring a long-term healing prognosis. Injuries can be so devastating because the road to recovery is often times an arduous two-step process. First, the athlete must wait for their broken bones, torn ligaments, or pulled muscles to naturally heal. During this time, the athlete’s injured limb is likely immobilized in a cast or brace, leaving the resulting muscle to slowly atrophy as the body tries to heal itself. As a result, an athlete must spend the second part of their recovery process re-training the weakened muscles in the immobilized limb to return to full-strength. What if there was a way to heal and train the body at the same time? This is the power of a neurophysiological phenomenon known as “contralateral strength training.”

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Packing a punch: Does strength indicate boxing performance?

Every sport has a different “ideal” body type, which is largely dictated by the muscle groups it focuses on training. Swimmers prioritize developing the muscles in their shoulders and backs, which allows them to propel themselves through the water with their arms. On the other hand, runners prioritize the hamstrings and quads in their legs, which allows them to generate greater force when pushing off of the ground. So, what is the ideal body type for boxing? Strength is clearly important when punching an opponent, but is it even the most important factor in boxing performance? Should either upper- or lower-body strength be prioritized over the other?

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The Benchmark of Upper Body Strength: Injury Prevention During the Bench Press

Who wouldn’t want to look like Captain America? This common desire to attain a strong Herculean physique, either for athletics or aesthetics, has led many ambitious men and women to weightlifting. An egotistical motivation puts these people at risk of injury, however, as they sacrifice proper form to achieve their next personal best. The bench press is one example of an effective but potentially dangerous lift.

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Look Strong, Be Strong, or Be Safe?: The Perils of a New Deadlifter

So, you’ve started deadlifting, but you’re not sure if you’re just weak, or if you’re going to break your spine, and there are plenty of “gym bros” slamming the weights, grunting, and walking around wearing equipment (wrist straps and back belts) that says “I’m literally too strong for my own body.” So, what do you do? Do you need to buy that stuff too?

This blog post will walk you through a biomechanical analysis of the deadlift while wearing supportive equipment, in the hopes of helping you face this daunting task.

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Muscle Loss Due to Aging

It is a well-known fact that as we get old, our bodies (sadly) deteriorate, leaving us unable to perform certain physical functions as easily as we could have when we were younger. In this article, the authors describe a study done to analyze muscle loss due to aging, primarily by examining two different age groups of humans. By conducting measurements on people over and under the age of 40 years, results show a clear difference in muscle mass and strength between the two.

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