Bench Press

Bench Press – Elbows In vs Out?

Just like with most things fitness, there can be an overwhelming amount of information on things to the point where you feel like you’re no further ahead with an answer. This question is a big one too, that when it comes to bench press should your elbows be flared out or tucked in slightly? Here we talk about both styles so that you can better work on this exercise in the gym and make it work more for you!

Elbows flared out

This technique is probably best known as the way bodybuilders train their chest. By flaring the elbows outwards there is greater activation through the chest compared with other muscle groups, especially as it relates to the upper pecs. Generally with this style of bench pressing you wouldn’t use as much weight because even though the stretch may feel better across the chest, flaring your elbows out too much has been shown to:

  • Increase the risk of shoulder impingement
  • Move tension away from the chest and onto the front delts (shoulders)

Elbows tucked slightly

For those more experienced, or people who follow along with strength sports such as powerlifting, you may notice a more ‘tucked’ style of bench pressing with their elbows. By tucking the elbows in, you can still utilize the pecs, but will also bring more of the triceps in to help leverage the movement. Because of this, you’ll find that you’ll be able to use more weight on the exercise as well as control it a little better because of the more natural movement pattern of the shoulders and elbows. Just remember not to tuck too much as the exercise will become more or a tricep press and again put more strain on the front delts.

Flared vs Tucked?

For someone looking to build their chest muscles, you’d usually touch slightly higher on your chest with their elbows flared out and weight lower. For those using the bench press as one of their big compound strength movements, we’d recommend the elbows tucked in. Neither is wrong in theory, it comes down to your goal of each movement and possible injuries or aches/pains that you may have with certain joints.

Finding the right angle for your elbows on bench press

The elbows should either be slightly in or directly in line with the barbell when the weight is above the chest. Your wrists should also be stacked over your forearms which should be perpindicular to the floor in a straight line, and this will be done by using the correct grip width on the bar, so play about until everything is in line and feeling steady (a good bench press grip width is usually around shoulder width or slightly wider, going to close will change the exercise to a close grip bench press for TRICEPS not chest).

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