Academic journal article The Sport Journal

Relationship of Arm Span to the Effects of Prefatigue on Performance in the Bench Press

Academic journal article The Sport Journal

Relationship of Arm Span to the Effects of Prefatigue on Performance in the Bench Press

Article excerpt


Muscular strength is one essential component contributing to optimal athletic performance (4). The development of upper body strength typically involves high-resistance, low-repetition exercises using larger muscle masses to increase the maximal force generation by a muscle or muscle group. The ability of individuals to adapt positively to increasing training loads requires careful consideration of the volume and intensity of the exercises (1). Regardless of precise planning by the coach, an athlete's physical limitations may prevent optimal adaptation, or physical gifts may instead promote adaptation (4).

A plethora of anecdotal evidence surrounds the effects of the length of the appendages of the human body on performance in the weight room. In particular in the bench press lift, many recreational lifters maintain that long arm length is detrimental to performance. The fact that lifters with longer arms must displace the bar further from the chest in order to complete the lift would seem to lend some credence to this anecdotal belief. However, recent work by Mayhew et al. (5) demonstrated that skeletal length was not a valid predictor for performance on the NFL-225 bench repetition test. In more recent work, Reynolds et al. (7) examined the relationship between more basic anthropometric measurements and performance in the bench press. In this study, Reynolds et al. recruited seventy subjects, 34 men and 36 women ranging in age from 18-69, and found that no anthropometric measurements were significant predictors on one repetition maximum (1-RM) performance.

Although previous results have not demonstrated a relationship between anthropometric measurements and 1-RM strength, results supporting differences in strength based on skeletal position have been witnessed. Murphy et al. (6) reported a significant correlation between isometric strength at 90 degrees of elbow flexion and 1-RM in the bench press exercise. Interestingly, the participants in this study demonstrated greater isometric strength at 120 degrees of elbow flexion, but this was not related to 1-RM strength. This angle (90 degrees) coincides to the 'sticking point,' the point of lowest force production, in the lift (3). It is intuitive that 1-RM strength in the bench press should correlate to the angle of lowest isometric force production. To complete a successful attempt, a lifter must move the weight through the 'sticking point' in order to achieve the elbow angle of 120 degrees, a point of greater isometric force production, and from there, finish the lift (3). Lifters who have longer arm spans will thus have a greater total distance to push the bar in order to reach the 120 degrees angle of elbow flexion. Thus, longer arm length could potentially be disadvantageous in the bench press lift.

Although previous research has not demonstrated this disadvantage (5), the Mayhew et al. investigation was descriptive in nature, predicting performance in one predetermined maximal set to failure. Past research evaluating the relationship between arm length and bench press strength has ignored how arm length may affect a total workout. Studies accounting for the potential effects of arm length during fatigue on the bench press are missing from the body of research. It is possible that effects of arm length do not manifest until the lifter is in a fatigued state. Thus, the purpose of the present investigation is to examine, in a very practical way, the effects of arm length on performance in the bench press while fatigued.



The present investigation was presented to and approved by the local Institutional Review board for human subject usage. Eight apparently healthy college-aged (19.75yrs [+ or -] 1.2) female track and field athletes who compete in the throws events (shot put, hammer, javelin, discus) volunteered for this study (Table 1). The participants underwent a 1-RM test (Pre Max) for the bench press as prescribed by Baechle and Earle (2) as a normal part of practice and their coach reported their values (59. …

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