Image via Muscle & Fitness
Shoulder pain from bench pressing is frustrating, and it can be one of the most dangerous exercises because a person can drop the bar on their chest, throat or face.
And despite exercising and eating healthy, shoulder pains can happen to anyone. So here are a handful of things you can do to help fix your nagging shoulders.
1. Avoid Flared Elbows When Bench Pressing
Shoulder pain is caused by flared elbows when bench pressing. When lowering the bar, the upper arm bone squeezes your rotator cuff tendons against your AC joints hence stressing the rotator cuff irritating your shoulder causing pain. To avoid this, you can bench press in half reps with locked elbows whereby you go half way down. In this way, your upper arm does not stress the rotator cuffs against AC joints down. However, this will not be sufficient for chest muscle exercises.
image via Expert Method
[Side note] You should tuck your elbows like the image above, but ignore the thumbless grip.
2. Pull Your Shoulder Blades Together
When bench pressing, pull your shoulder blades together as if you are hugging the seat as the shoulders will provide a stable platform. Your shoulders should stay in the hugging form throughout the whole exercise. Lie with your upper back tight. It will increase stability enabling you to push your upper back harder. Do not move your shoulders forward as you will lose the tightness. Here’s a good visual that will help (the depression and retraction images are what you want):
image via Quora
3. Narrow your Grip
Your grip and your shoulder should be of the same width. The close grip allows you to have flexible motions. It also includes holding the bar with a thumb grip, avoid thumbless grip. As much as it feels comfortable, it causes the wrists to bend increasing pressure on the shoulders. Always hold the bar using the full grip as this will increase the strength, therefore, contracting your shoulder muscles. A good way to tell if you’re using the right grip is at the bottom your wrists should be above your forearms, and your forearms perpendicular to the floor. Like so:
image via Muscle Styles
4. Bench Press without Machines
Many people think using machines when bench pressing is safe. However, it causes shoulder pain. The device forces the bar to move vertically despite the proper bar path not being vertical. The vertical movement towards the neck will cause the elbows to be 90 degrees. Therefore, the upper arms squeeze the rotator cuff tendons against AC joints hence shoulder pain.
5. Fix Tight Hip Flexors
One last thing a lot of people don’t realize is how tight hip flexors can actually end up causing shoulder pain.
image via Pilates Patio
You see the body works as a unit. So when one part is not functioning properly it affects other parts of the body negatively – it’s like a chain reaction.
So when your hip flexors get tight, it doesn’t allow you to comfortably get a proper arch in your spine, which causes you to bench at an angle that’s unnatural for the shoulder joint, leading to impingement and pain.
Fixing your tight hip flexors comes with a pile of other benefits too which if you’re interested you can read more about here.