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I fully extend my arms when bringing the barbell up from my chest, is this the correct approach or should they not be fully locked?

  • That's for you to decide. A complete lockout gives you a bit of a break from the reps, but it can take its toll on the elbow joint. More importantly, you should be focusing on shoulder placement, and thoracic extension. – Alec Oct 21 '15 at 20:21
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I highly recommend reading the following two articles by Paul Carter:

They cover all that you really need to know about the bench press, and is a fairly comprehensive guide.

However, to answer your specific question:

I fully extend my arms when bringing the barbell up from my chest, is this the correct approach or should they not be fully locked?

The answer to this really depends on the purpose behind your training:

  • If you are thinking at all about competing in powerlifting, the arms should be fully extended (locked out). If not, you will fail the lift.
  • If you are focusing on aesthetics (looking good), you may want to get close to full extension without a full lock out. That provides more time under tension and fatigues your muscles more, which in turn can promote greater arm growth

In either case, there is one thing you want to make sure does not happen:

  • Do not raise your shoulders off the bench

I see it happen all too often, and I even used to do it myself. Raising your shoulders off the bench in the name of "full lockout" puts extra stress on your shoulder joint that is unhealthy. It also robs power from the bench press by loosing that all important upper back tightness.

Your shoulders should remain in that neutral position that you started in when you were lowering the barbell to your chest.

  • +1 well explained, specially the raising of the shoulders off the bench – Marcello Miorelli Aug 18 '16 at 22:12

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