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What is a Bent Press?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 17, 2024
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The bent press is a popular power lifting exercise that has fallen out of favor in the 2000s in favor of more modern lifts and practices. It was a common strengthening workout and weight training exercise in the early and middle parts of the 1900s for the old-time strongman and strongwoman lifters. Though it can commonly be performed with a straight bar, bent presses can also be maneuvered with a kettlebell, a curling bar or a variety of other weights.

Known as a full body workout, the bent press begins with the weight on the ground and utilizes a full range of bodily motion to bring and hold the weight overhead. Using one hand, the weightlifting muscles of the back, legs and arm must keep the weight balanced. Similar to other one-hand presses and power lifts, the bent press allows for a much greater weight to be lifted by using the entire weight of the body.

The exercise is performed by a right-handed lifter by placing the weight in front of the body in its tallest position. If it is a bar bell, stand the bar up in front of the body. Use the legs to lift the weight by the middle of the bar to the shoulder. The elbow should be tucked to the side to hold the weight on your shoulder; the right leg should be straight, providing support for the weight, and the left leg should be bent in an active position. Next, the torso is twisted to the right and the elbow is removed from the side and extended straight up into the air, lifting the weight as the back lowers to the ground.

At this time, the bent press has the lifter with the right arm in the air and the right leg straight supporting the weight. To complete the bent press, the bodybuilder then straightens the back to press the weight into the air with that muscle, still holding the weight straight up into the air with the body now standing erect. The bent press is then over and the lifter can bring the weight down or drop it on the ground if there are mats or a soft floor.

The bent press is sometimes referred to as the “Sandow” after Eugen Sandow, who first popularized the lift in the 1890s and is known as the Father of Modern Bodybuilding. The bent press also was featured as a staple of the workouts of contemporaries Louis Cy and Arthur Saxon, who holds the world record for bent press at 370 pounds (167.8 kg). It has come out of favor in modern times due to the stress that can be applied to the shoulders and spine when performed incorrectly.

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