9 Reasons Why You Have Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing

Have Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing? then you should know that one of the most common issues that Gym trainee faces is shoulder pain while bench Pressing or after doing bench press, and generally, most trainers will tell you to stop doing barbell bench press completely and start doing dumbbell bench press instead.

But the majority of the time doing dumbbell bench presses does not solve the problem, as there could be so many things that you could be doing wrong, and simply switching to dumbbells won’t fix it, therefore here are 9 reasons why you have shoulder pain while bench pressing in the Gym.

shoulder pain while bench pressing
Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing

1. Grip Too Wide

Gripping the bar with the right width is very important while doing a barbell bench press and it is one of the most common mistakes that people do, they either grip it too narrow or too wide, which is not necessarily bad by any means but if it is the reason for you Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing then you will have to adjust your width according to your body structure.

General Guideline for people with Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing: The wider you go the more chest you are training the narrower you go the more triceps you’re involving, if you go too wide then after a certain point it will start hurting your shoulders.

How to Know if your Grip Is Causing The Shoulder Pain

Next time you do bench press try taking a slightly narrower grip (maybe an inch narrower) and one of these 3 thing could happen:

You Get No Pain: In this case its confirmed that it was the grip width that was causing the issue and now that you’ve fixed it and you have no pain, enjoy the exercise.

You Get Relatively Less Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing: If this is the case, then you’re getting shoulder pain because of multiple reasons and one of those reasons is your grip width which you just adjusted, now make this your new grip width and keep reading for more reasons.

Nothing Changes: If nothing changes then try an even more narrow grip and if still nothing changes then this is not the reason why you have shoulder pain, so switch back to your original grip width.

Take Away: There is no one right answer for your grip width, you have to experiment with different grip widths and since everyone has different shoulder widths and arm lengths, everyone should bench with their unique grip width, so experiment and find the one that feels the most comfortable on your joints.

2. Not Extending Your Upper Back & Improper Breathing

This is the most common reason why most people experience shoulder pain while bench pressing, if you can extend your upper back properly and breath properly than their 70% chance that you will not get shoulder pain (once you’ve adjusted your grip width).

How To Breath Properly to Avoid Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing

Breathing properly might not seem like a big deal at first but the more advance you get the more you realize how important it is to breath properly specially while training your chest.

While bench pressing when the bar comes down to your chest you need to make sure that you inhale and expand your ribcage as much as possible, doing this will not only keep all the tension on your chest (and not on your shoulders) but will also stretch your chest more and you will see more muscle growth because of stretch mediated hypertrophy.

Doing so might feel slightly uncomfortable in the beginning because it will take some additional effort to do so, but after 3-4 weeks it will become effortless, and you won’t even have to think about it.

General Guideline for people with Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing: Inhale as you come down, hold you breath and push the bar up and exhale at the top, inhale again and repeat.

How Extend your Upper Back Properly

Extending your upper back means keeping an arch in your spine, it dose not has to be very big and uncomfortable arch but you need some arch in your upper as this will make sure that you chest on the top and your shoulder stays below, as whatever is on the top will do the most work, and you want your chest to do the most work. And have a good arch in your upper will make you fell more strong and stable.

Take Away: proper breathing coupled with an extended upper back will make sure that the majority of the load is on your chest and your shoulders are working as stabilizer muscles and not as the prime mover.

3. Flaring Your Elbows Too Much

If you are flaring your elbows way too much then it’s very common to experience shoulder pain while bench pressing remember that every individual has similar but slightly different shoulder joints, which simply means everyone has different shoulder mobility, some people have more shoulder mobility and some have less, and this is not a bad thing or a good things.

Generally, people with more shoulder mobility can flare their elbows and still keep all the tension on their chest, whereas people with less shoulder mobility might need to tuck their elbows slightly in, and that’s one of the reasons why you should not try to copy the lifting technique of some other bodybuilder or powerlifter, cause you might have different structure and mobility then them.

General Guideline for people with Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing: You should keep your elbows at 45 degrees while doing any pressing movement for chest.

How To Know If You’re Flaring Your Elbows Too Much

Next time you bench press make sure to slightly tuck in your elbows and see if you feel any discomfort in your shoulder joint, if you don’t feel any pain then you were flaring too much and now you have fixed it.

But if you still have pain or if you have pain but it is relatively less, then maybe you are training out of your active range of motion.

4. Not training In Your Active ROM

Not just bench pressing but while doing any exercise you should make sure that you are training in your active ROM (range of motion) especially if your goal is hypertrophy (muscle growth) or if you have discomfort in any of your joints (Shoulder Joint, Wrist or Elbows).

Training in your Active ROM means training only in those ranges where you targeted muscle is the prime mover, this ensures that while doing any exercise your targeted muscle is the limiting factor and not anything else.

If you have fixed all of the above points and you still have Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing than there is a very high possibility that you are going out of your active ROM.

Active ROM Test

Take a bar and get into the bend over barbell row position and pull the bar to your chest, if you can not touch your chest with the bar and you stop 1-2 inch before touching your chest, then that your active ROM, so when you do bench press try to stop 1-2 inches before touching your chest because that is your Active ROM, and if you go any below from that then you will start feeling it in your shoulder.

Similarly is you do this test and you are able to touch your chest with the bar, in that case you can touch your chest with the bar while doing the bench press.

Take Away: Bench press depth is very subjective, you have to experiment with the depth by stopping 1-2 inches before touching your chest and find the range where your shoulder feels the most comfortable.

5. Bouncing At The Bottom

It’s very common to see beginners and intermediates to do this mistake, to do more reps or to lift heavier reps gym tranies generally bounce the bar with their chest nd this is because on bench press the bottom of the rep is the most difficult part therefore we try to get out of that range as quickly as possible hence the bouncing.

But bouncing also means that at the bottom the bar is more unstable as it is not in your control this may slowly lead to shoulder pain or elbow pain or even wrist pain, if you bounce the bar at the bottom of the rep then you will not feel pain in beginning of your training months but eventually the pain will start creeping in.

While you have Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing it is recommended that you slow down your reps to avoid any sudden movement and if your bench depth is very deep (bar touching your chest) then make sure that you gently touch your chest at the bottom and you take 1-2 seconds while going back up.

General Guideline for people with Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing: You should take 2-3 seconds while coming down then pause for a second at the bottom and push the bar up.

6. Not Bracing Properly

This is not a very big factor or a direct factor for Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing but this can lead to a lot of people getting shoulder pain, proper bracing means while doing bench press nothing except you shoulder joint and elbow joint should moving, your entire body should be stable doing this will help you avoid the bar from moving too much.

If you are properly braced you can also lift heavier weight and do more reps because of increased in the stability of the bar and your body and the best thing it will do is it will help you

General Guideline for people with Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing: Keep both feet jammed into the ground, arch your upper back, keep your lat muscles tight and breath right, this will help you in bracing properly.

7. Not Warming Up Correctly

If you have have been doing everything above correctly and you still have Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing or after bench pressing then their is very high chance that you are either not warming up (warmup sets) correctly or you have a poor load management, lets first discuss about Not warming up correctly.

Everyone has different ways of warming up before they start doing bench press, and their are no wrong answers for that, but the real warmup stats when you actually start bench pressing, if you get Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing in that case you should do at least 5 warmup sets before doing your first working set.

How To Warm Up Properly to Avoid Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing

Suppose your goal is to do 100kg for 10 reps, a good warm will look something like this:

  • 1st Warmup Set – 20 KG X 10 Reps
  • 2nd Warmup Set – 50 KG X 8 Reps
  • 3rd Warmup Set – 70 KG X 6 Reps
  • 4th Warmup Set – 85 Kg X 4 Reps
  • 5th Warmup Set – 95 Kg X 2 Rep
  • 1st Working Set – 100Kg X 10Reps

Your warmup sets should look some what like this and if you want to do more warmup sets or you want to do more reps feel free to do so, and always remember its always better to over warmup then the other way around.

8. Improper Load Management

Improper load management is a mistake that almost every beginner does, the majority of intermediates dose and some advance lifters also does, specially if have a warrior mentality in the gym then you are more likely to do this mistake, this dose not mean you need to change your mentality but rather use that warrior mentality correctly.

Proper load management means never increasing the load DRASTICALLY, and it also means not increasing workout volume drastically. For eg if you do 100Kg for 10reps and you have never done more than 100KG in a long time then it’s not a good idea to suddenly try 150 KG (even though you know you can do it).

if you want to see how many you can do with 150KG then you should increase 10 KG every workout and in your 5th workout you should try 150KG. And same with the workout volume if you did 3 sets of bench press in your last workout then its not a good idea to do 8 sets of bench press in your next workout, increase sets by 1 or 2 every workout not more than that.

General Guideline for people with Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing: It’s okay to increase weights and Volume drastically sometimes (do not be a snowflake) but if you do it all the time then you can expect some joint aches and pains.

9. Recovery

If you are not doing any of the above mistakes then they is a extremely high chance that your recovery is not on point, as yourself some questions:

  1. Are you eating in a surplus?
  2. Are you sleeping 8 hours every day?
  3. Are you at least trying to manage your stress?
  4. Is your benching frequency too high?
  5. Are you taking de-load weeks or de-volume weeks?
  6. Are you rotating Exercise?
  7. Ae you also training in the higher rep ranges?
  8. Are you doing too much volume from too many weeks?
  9. Are you giving some days for your should recover?

Everything above has an impact on recovery, fix all the 9 above points and your recovery will be on point.

Some Other Common Reasons Of Shoulder pain

If you made it till here then now you know everything related to workouts that can cause Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing, below are some of the common reasons for shoulder pain for people who do not go to the gym, these could also be a reason (less likely) why you get shoulder pain.

Always Sleeping on One Side

Always sleeping on one side can cause shoulder pain for some people, if you have left shoulder pain and you always sleep on your left side then it could be the reason why you get shoulder pain, try sleeping on your back or on the other side to see if the pain improves.

History Of Injury

If you have had any accident or any injury in the past in your shoulder and you get shoulder pain on the same side then going to physiotherapy is the best option you have got.

Some Exercises To Fix Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing

Many exercises can help you if you get shoulder pain while bench pressing, and these exercises will depend upon the type of shoulder pain you have, so visiting physiotherapy is the best option you have to get the specific exercises for your specific shoulder pain.

But here are some general exercise that can help majority of the shoulder pain conditions:

  • Arm Rotation
  • Shoulder internal rotation
  • Shoulder abduction
  • shoulder flexion
  • shoulder extension

General Guideline for people with Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing: If doing any exercise hurts your shoulder then stop doing that exercise.

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