I’ve seen this question asked time-and-time again, “Should You Go Past 90 Degrees When Benching?”
It’s one of those benching facts that you’re entirely sure about.
If you go past 90 degrees is it better or worse for your pecs?
When you do go past 90 degrees should you really be feeling it in your shoulder joint as much as you do?
Or would you be best off stopping short of bringing the bar to your chest in the name of comfort?
Let’s find out.
Should You Go Past 90 Degrees When Benching?
In the vast majority of cases, yes, you should go past 90 degrees when benching. The chest is most activated at the bottom of the bench press, so stopping at 90 degrees may not stimulate the pecs enough for growth. That being said, how deep you should bench will also depend on your anatomy, e.g. a person with long arms will find it extremely uncomfortable to go past 90 degrees. Furthermore, whether you generally perform a powerlifting or bodybuilding-type bench press will also determine how deep you should go.
Your Chest is Most Activated at the Bottom of the Bench Press
If this was a simple Yes or No answer, then I will always say that yes you should always go past 90 degrees when benching.
However, this isn’t always the case, but I’ll go into more detail about this in a moment.
But, in reality, the vast majority of gym-goers should be going deeper than 90 degrees on bench press.
Now, the main reason for this is that it is the bottom part of the bench press that hits your pecs.
And let’s face facts, you’re mainly training bench press for chest development.
So, if you’re stopping at 90 degrees, or worse, even higher, then you won’t be hitting your chest that well at all.
This will also explain why you’ll often see people in the gym “lifting” what appears to be a massive bench press weight, and yet they have tiny pecs and an underdeveloped chest.
In essence, they are simply training their front delts and triceps, while not having much focus on the pecs at all.
Additionally, going through the full range of motion is initially how you should always train any exercise.
Granted, there is a place for half-reps, limited range of motion training, but this isn’t something that you should be doing until you’ve reached your strength potential with an exercise.
In my mind, you should always focus on going through the full range of motion with every exercise, while aiming to get stronger each time you lift.
It’s only once that progression has started to stall, hopefully because you have reached the limit of your strength, that you can start looking at other methods of training.
So, if you start out from day one only benching to 90 degrees, you’re leaving a lot of potential growth on the table.
Does Your Anatomy Allow You to Go Past 90 Degrees?
Okay, I did mention that it may not always be advisable to bench past 90 degrees.
And this mainly comes down to you as an individual and your anatomy.
Basically, not everyone is capable of performing the bench press in exactly the same way.
And this is due to things like body composition, limb length, overall flexibility and mobility, and even injury history.
So, as an example, a short lifter with short arms, who has great flexibility, a fantastic set of pecs should find that benching past 90 degrees is a breeze.
In fact, it will probably feel extremely uncomfortable and benching so deep may even aggravate that old injury.
This person should probably not be attempting to bench past 90 degrees.
So, in other words, you should always bench in a way that is comfortable for you, but that will still stimulate growth.
Now, our friend with long arms and previous injuries should obviously avoid touching the barbell to their chest.
However, this doesn’t mean that they should come to a dead-stop once they’ve hit 90 degrees.
I still stand by the fact that you should go past 90 degrees, but once more, only as far as is comfortable for you.
So, for some people this will mean that they can only lower the bar until it’s 1-2 inches off their chest.
This is absolutely fine, and it is low enough that it will stimulate the chest enough for growth.
Therefore, if you’re unable to lower the bar this much without feeling discomfort then you would be better avoiding bench press.
Basically, you need that injury to heal fully, while also working on your flexibility and mobility.
What Style of Bench Press Are You Performing?
The final factor to consider is the type of bench press that you generally perform.
I guess we could narrow it down to a bodybuilding or powerlifting-style bench press.
So, if you’re performing a bodybuilding bench press you’ll typically have your back flat on the bench, while using a full range of motion.
Therefore, you should be going past 90 degrees.
However, a powerlifting-style bench press involves reducing the range of motion, while using back arch and leg drive.
Basically, the powerlifting bench press is all about shifting as much weight as possible, while keeping your range of motion as short as possible.
In fact, this could even involve a wider grip, which means that you may not even hit 90 degrees, even though the barbell has touched your chest.
This is still a legitimate way to bench press, but is far more focused on progressing in weight regularly.
However, the bodybuilding bench press is all about taking the bar through the entire range of motion, at both the top and the bottom.
Your aim here is to stimulate all the major benching muscle groups in order to elicit growth.
How to do Bench Press For Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting
So, I hope you understand that in the main you should go past 90 degrees when benching.
That being said, this will also depend on factors such as your anatomy, flexibility, and the style of bench press you prefer to perform.
As an example, a lifter with long arms, poor flexibility, and previous shoulder injuries may have great difficulty in going past 90 degrees.
This person should still attempt to bench as deep as possible, but will probably find that keeping the bar at least 1-2 inches above the chest works best for them.
Furthermore, the type of bench press you typically perform also makes a difference.
A powerlifting bench press involves reducing the range of motion in order to help you lift more weight.
So, you may never actually need to go past 90 degrees to stimulate the target muscles.
However, a bodybuilding bench press will involve using a full range of motion, so you should definitely go past 90 degrees.
You’ll also pleased to hear I have discussed the next potential “form issue”, and that is whether your eyes should be directly below the bar when you bench press.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.