NASMSUM13_wkt09BIf you are like most fitness professionals, reading about exercise technique can be confusing with so many opinions floating around as fact. It is hard to get a grasp on what is right, what is fallacy and what really matters when it comes to exercise technique. One of the leading questions hitting fitness facilities around the country is the question of elbow placement when performing a bench press. 

How far down should the elbows move when performing a bench press – what is the right range of motion?  

The answer is simple, yet it is not black and white. The short answer to the question is simply that elbow position depends on the potential muscle imbalances of the exerciser and the amount of load the exerciser is lifting. However, to understand the answer more completely, it is imperative to know the anatomy and mechanics of the shoulder.

The major prime movers of the shoulder are the pectorals major and pectoralis minor, anterior, medial and posterior deltoid, trapezius (lower, upper, middle), rhomboids and latissimus dorsi muscles.

The stabilizers consist of the subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and teres major.

The shoulder consists of four joints that work together to allow proper movement. These joints are: glenohumeral, sternoclavicular, acromio-clavicular and the scapolo-thoracic joints. Each joint must move as the shoulder moves, allowing for the most range of motion of any joint. Several muscles attach to each joint, some serving as stabilizers and others serving as prime movers.

Related Articles
Quantifying elbow extension and elbow hyperextension in cricket bowling: a case study of Jenny Gunn.
J Sports Sci. 2012 May;30(9):937-47
Authors: King MA, Yeadon MR
In this study a method for determining elbow extension and elbow abduction for a cricket bowling delivery was developed and assessed for Jenny Gunn who has hypermobility in both elbows and whose bowling action has been repeatedly queried by umpires. Bowling is a dynamic activity which is assessed visually in real time in a cricket match by an umpire. When the legality of a bowler's action is questioned by an umpire a quantitative analysis is undertaken using a marker based motion analysis system. This method of quantifying elbow extension should agree with a visual assessment of when the arm is "straight" and should minimise the effects of marker movement. A set of six markers on the bowling arm were used to calculate elbow angles. Differences of up to 1° for elbow extension and up to 2° for elbow abduction were found when angles calculated from the marker set for static straight arm trials were compared with measurements taken by a chartered sports physiotherapist. In addition comparison of elbow extension angles at ball release calculated from the markers during bowling trials with those measured from high speed video also showed good agreement with mean differences of 0°±2°.
PMID: 22548307 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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