Ask the Experts: How Do I Prevent Shoulder Pain During the Bench Press?

Learn three strategies to prevent or eliminate shoulder pain when performing the Bench Press.

A: You might be attempting a personal record on the Bench. You load up the plates, lie on the bench and lower the bar to your chest. Then it all goes wrong. Your shoulders squeal in pain—the last thing you want when you're building your bench to impress your coach on testing day (although he should be understanding).

Fortunately, a sudden pain in your shoulder doesn't necessarily mean you're injured and cannot perform the exercise. Here are three quick fixes that will keep your shoulders healthy when you bench and help you lift more weight.

There's a good chance your technique is the main cause of your shoulder woes. In particular, a wide arm angle (elbows directly under the bar) puts your shoulders in a compromised position. The more weight you lift, the more stress you put on the supporting structures of the joint.

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Q: My shoulder hurts when I Bench Press. What should I do?

A: You might be attempting a personal record on the Bench. You load up the plates, lie on the bench and lower the bar to your chest. Then it all goes wrong. Your shoulders squeal in pain—the last thing you want when you're building your bench to impress your coach on testing day (although he should be understanding).

Fortunately, a sudden pain in your shoulder doesn't necessarily mean you're injured and cannot perform the exercise. Here are three quick fixes that will keep your shoulders healthy when you bench and help you lift more weight.

Technique

There's a good chance your technique is the main cause of your shoulder woes. In particular, a wide arm angle (elbows directly under the bar) puts your shoulders in a compromised position. The more weight you lift, the more stress you put on the supporting structures of the joint.

The Fix: Perfect your technique so your shoulders are in an ideal position to support heavy loads. To do this, change the angle of your arms so they are positioned at 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock (assuming your head is at 12 o'clock). Also, pull your shoulders down and back throughout the entire exercise.

For detailed Bench Press technique tips, watch this tutorial video from STACK Expert Rick Scarpulla.

Bench Press

Rotator Cuff Strength 

The four rotator cuff muscles keep your shoulder joint stable and secure. Although these muscles are small, you are only as strong as your weakest link. You may be able to press more weight, but weak rotator cuff muscles—and the associated pain—will limit how much you can lift.

The Fix: It's best to activate and strengthen these muscles at the end of your dynamic warm-up and before performing the Bench Press. Click here to learn how to strengthen your rotator cuff.

Back Strength

Your scapulae (shoulder blades) provide the foundation for your shoulders. If the muscles that move your scaps are weak, you will not have a solid base to support heavy lifting.

The Fix: Perform pulling exercises such as Pull-Ups or Rows twice as often as pressing exercises. Also, activate your back muscles before the Bench Press with exercises like Face-Pulls or Pull-Ups.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BENCH PRESS | EXERCISE | BENCH | PRESS | ROTATOR CUFF | ROTATOR CUFF MUSCLES