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Should you flare or tuck your elbows when pressing?

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When you do bench presses, you may happen to face this confusion: should the elbows be flared or tucked? Most gym goers don’t even put much thought into this and make the move however they see fit, without questioning it.

Why is this important?

It’s not just about avoiding strain and injury, but also about performing correctly and yielding results. Bench presses represent a great exercise for power and muscle mass; when done correctly, you will discover that you actually need to perform so much less and achieve something. Now that you are probably motivated to improve your performance, let’s find out what you should be doing with your elbows. The right technique will show you the true effectiveness of this exercise.

Tuck or flare?

If you tuck your elbows, one thing is sure: you’re not doing it right. Even when you think you’re in control of such move, you could be overdoing it, which is what usually happens. The better approach is to flare and push. This will prompt your pectorals to work harder and thus you will gain more strength in that area.

You may be seeing a lot of people who tuck their elbows and are truly convinced this is the way to go. Bodybuilders flare their elbows, while powerlifters fail to do so, mainly because they insist on doing it differently. A consequence is that the bar gets close to the stomach, which is again a wrong move that can misalign and injure your forearm. Plus, you’re not really taking advantage of your pectorals.

Here’s a less known yet amazing fact about flared elbows. The general direction of the muscular fibers in your chest is in a straight line from your sternum. When your movement is aligned to this, you’re putting more power into it and making your muscles grow bigger. Your muscles can support the effort much better. From this, it becomes easy to see how it helps perform better and gain more muscle.

Tucking and especially over-tucking can lead to elbow discomfort. Your shoulders are forced to rotate. When the body cannot do this because of a rigid movement, then it puts the pressure someplace else – in this case, on the elbows. Flare them as much as you can and they will remain under the bar. When the elbows eventually tuck due to the pressure, they end up in the right position. The percentage of people who over-tuck is too great, which shows that most have misunderstood the way this exercise should be done and what happens during it. Stick to flaring and you will notice immediately how easier it becomes on certain muscle groups and how your pecs participate better.

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