I recently got into a debate on Facebook (haven’t we all) about whether touching your chest during bench press is necessary. According to the gym bros, “if you ain’t touchin’ then it don’t count”. While this frame of mind is true in the NFL Combine or a powerlifting meet, it’s not necessarily true for bodybuilding. The thing we must keep in mind when lifting is that our bodies are all different. For example, a person with short forearms and a larger ribcage can easily touch their chest while bench pressing (with the exception of those with shoulder mobility issues). For others with long forearms and smaller ribcages, touching their chest may result in a trip to “SnapCity”. If this is you, you may want to stop the weight 2 or 3 inches above your chest before pressing it back up. Also, long forearms on an OHP (Overhead Press) may prevent some folks from returning the bar to their clavicle safely and instead they may want to stop at chin level before pressing back up.
And finally, we’ve come to the “King of All Exercises,” the squat. The famous question, “How much ya bench bro?” has evolved to another level of gym rats who feel they’re superior to their predecessors by now asking “How much ya skwat?” Have you ever noticed how some people can stay upright when they squat, while others seem to lay down as they descend? It all boils down to femur to torso ratio. When you squat, your center of gravity is just in front of the ankle. This means that the bar on your back must stay directly above that area in order to perform a well balanced squat. But people with long femurs sit back so far when they descend that they end up lying down. Two people who are both 5’9” but have different proportions would will have different squat form. For example, person ‘A’ could have long tibias, short femurs, and a long torso; while person ‘B’ could have average tibias, long femurs, and a very short torso. When you see person ‘A’ squat, they may stay upright the whole time and get a great leg workout while person ‘B’ may tend to lay down into their squat and complain of back strain at the end of their set. So regular squats may not be optimal for person ‘B’, they may want to take a sumo stance, not go “ass to grass,” try a front squat, or some other variation in order to get the leg work they seek. So just because the guy next to you is doing heavy squats and telling you that you need to do them in order to build your “wheels” doesn’t mean that they are optimal for your body.
With all this being said, I am in no way suggesting that you do quarter reps during your workouts (unless you have a reason) or that you use this perspective to not go hard in the gym. All I’m saying is that there are anatomical factors at play that you need to understand. Below, I’ve posted some pictures to illustrate the different portion lengths that make up overall height. And as always, I’m HERE if you need me.
I'm taller overall: HERE
I'm shorter sitting due to torso length: HERE
I'm slightly taller due to long femurs making up for torso shortness: HERE