Alleviating Shoulder Pain When Bench Pressing

Without a doubt, the bench press is one of the most effective and efficient exercises for building up the muscles of the chest, shoulders and triceps. Most bodybuilders’ first foray into the gym involves lying down on the bench press to test their one-rep maximum, and doesn’t end until decades later when their bodies have decided they just can’t move the weight anymore. In between sits thousands of bench press sessions, each working to add upon the strength and muscle mass attained and maintained in the last training session. The bench press is a power movement which leads to results – but it can also lead to injury.

Common bench pressing injuries include pectoral tears, ruptured biceps tendons, and rotator cuff damage. Biceps ruptures and pectoral tears can usually be avoided through the use of proper warm-ups, safe lifting form, and careful selection of weight that can be safely handled for at least 6 to 8 repetitions. As you may already regretfully know, it’s often the heavy maximum lifting that leads to injury. However, rotator cuff injuries are different. Let’s learn how we can work to prevent them.

Rotator cuff training
Visit for a wide variety of rotator cuff strengthening movement which can be used with a towel, bands, or very light dumbbells. These help to strengthen the areas of the shoulder not trained with standard bodybuilding shoulder movements, greatly reducing your chance of a shoulder injury to begin with.

10 RM or more
If you want to protect the rotator cuff when benching, don’t train with maximum poundage. For being so small and vulnerable, the RC endures a lot of strain from the weights. Keeping your bench press weight moderately heavy (12 to 15 repetitions) ensures the RC joint isn’t being asked to do too much.

Active release massage therapy
If you do develop a small ping or pinching pain in your shoulder area when bench pressing, it would benefit you greatly to visit an active release massage therapist in your area. These professionals are certified in ART, which allows them to use a combination of electricity, motion, and massage to cure muscle and joint pain.

Limited range bench pressing
This is a benching method made popular by “super-trainer” Charles Glass. The bodybuilder is forbidden from taking the weight down any further than the point where the elbows are parallel with the body. Often, bodybuilders will be forced to complete their flat dumbbell and barbell pressing on the floor itself, which obviously prevents any movement below the elbow-parallel point. By keeping your reps this short, you still stimulate the chest, triceps, and shoulders, but don’t go so low that the tendons and joints of the shoulders are forced to support the brunt of the weight as the chest reaches maximum contraction.

Common sense
Above all, if something hurts, stop doing it. Apply ice for the first 48 hours on and off, to reduce swelling. See a doctor if an injury persists – don’t try to train through it. If you’re reached intermediate bodybuilder status, you already know what factors hurt your body, and which help it to heal. Keep your bench pressing safe in order to protect the shoulder joint.