Is a Bench Press Affected by Arm Length?

Beautiful woman doing exercises with barbell on a bench press training in a fitness center
Long arms are not the end of the world if you want a big bench press. (Image: doble-d/iStock/Getty Images)

Some sports and exercises are very dependent on the way you're built. It's easier to play basketball if you're tall; you need to be pretty flexible to do gymnastics; and boxers have an easier time hitting their opponents if they have long arms. However, do these differences in body type affect something as simple as a bench press?

Whether you have short, long or average arms, there isn't much of a difference in how it affects your bench press. While there may be some slight advantage to those with shorter arms, it isn't enough for scientists to really notice. However, other body characteristics do affect how much you can (or can't) bench press.

Muscle Mass

As it turns out, the biggest predictor of a strong bench press isn't arm length. If you're going to use any body measurement to predict how someone will perform in the bench press, you should use the amount of muscle mass they have in the muscles that do most of the lifting, and how much body mass they have in general.

A team of Brazilian researchers compiled 48 studies in 2003 to try to find the best way to predict maximum strength in weightlifting movements and published their findings in the Brazilian Journal of Sports Medicine. They found that no body measurements are particularly effective to predict strength. However, there is some correlation between muscle size and overall body mass to strength.

The amount of muscle you have is definitely important, but so is the size of your body overall, also known as your body mass. A 2012 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also concludes that body mass is more important than arm length. This group of researchers had college-aged males perform the bench press at three different weights.

Each time these subjects performed the bench press they were working with weights below their maximum strength and were told to perform as many repetitions as possible. The researchers concluded that body mass was most closely tied to strength in the bench press. They also say that arm length was moderately related to strength, but not as much as body mass.


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