T Nation

Alternative to Bench Presses

Because of my shoulder pain (both shoulders), I have not been able to get a good chest workout for quite a while now. Bench press is out of the question as even putting 25lbs on each side causes too much shoulder pain. I also can’t do dips or flat dumbbell presses. That pretty much covers all the chest exercises that I know of. Any suggestions would be appreciated. And, I already tried ART. It may have helped short term but the results didn’t last.
Thanks.

Have you tried the Hammer Strength Iso-Lateral Bench Press? I have shoulder problems as well. I screwed my rotator cuffs in college. When I started trainging again, I started with low weight dumbells (20’s) (in November). I’m currently pushing 60’s. It can be done!

Try pushups. Firsts with the upper body elevated, like with hands on a bar in a power rack or on some steps, etc. It mimicks a decline bench, and is more gentle on the shoulders.

You can slowly add resistance with bands of a weighted pack, and lower the incline over time until you’re flat.

More importantly, work on rehabbing those shoulders. Take a look at the Cressey and Robertson articles.

[quote]wtf wrote:
Try pushups. Firsts with the upper body elevated, like with hands on a bar in a power rack or on some steps, etc. It mimicks a decline bench, and is more gentle on the shoulders.

You can slowly add resistance with bands of a weighted pack, and lower the incline over time until you’re flat.

More importantly, work on rehabbing those shoulders. Take a look at the Cressey and Robertson articles.[/quote]

I second the shoulder rehab/over-haul.

As far as chest work goes though, I believe the decline angle for barbell/dumbbell presses or flyes is least destructive on the shoulder joint while also the most effective angle to recruit pec muscle. I usually have to avoid flat bench with a barbell or dumbbells because of shoulder pain, but decline isn’t too bad.

Also, try reverse grip pressing, at either flat or decline angle. This of course means your palms are supinated (facing you). This takes the external rotation mostly out of the press. For that matter, try the supinated grip for shoulder pressing (such that the elbows flex out in front rather than laterally).

And, you might try half reps when pressing at any angle. The closer the bar gets to your chest the higher the stresses on the rotators.

Also, it might be worth the time/money to go to a physical therapist. You may have some imbalances that need to be addressed. A tear in a rotator can be healed through therapy, but ligament/tendon damage might require surgery.

TopSirloin

Rehab is what you need buddy. I’m not going to suggest exercises (cuban press!) cos I think going to a professional is the smartest thing to do.

But until then, maybe a machine seated press could help. 'Luck

what about fly’s im not sure if they would mess with your shoulders though, just a thought.

You may want to try floor presses or high board presses 3 or 4 board.

I think a better longterm solution would be to to find out the reason for your shoulderproblems instead of trying to work around them.

Check you traininglog (hope you have one) for the balance between pushing and pulling. Did you do as much rowing sets/reps as bench press? It could be caused by a strenght imbalance.
When training chest and shoulders in the past, did you ever do any “pre-hab”? Any spesific training for the rotatercuffs?

Regarding training your chest, take some time off and give your body time to heal. Use this time to work on some other weak musclegroup and, of course, see a good sports doc to get a proffesionals point of view of the problem and the solution.

Good luck.

My left shoulder started bothering me in December 2003. Foolishly, I tried working thru the pain instead of taking time off. In March 2004, I was diagnosed with a slight rotator cuff tear that my ortho didn't think required surgery. I went to PT for about 3 months and it helped tremendously. 

I eventually started doing only pushups for my chest workouts in high rep sets. Then I started adding a 10 lb plate on my back. In addition to pushups, I continue to do my rotator cuff exercises. 

Last month was the first time I started doing bench presses in over a year. I started very lightly and will add weight slowly this time, focusing on my form. 

Get you shoulder checked out. Start doing RT exercises if you are not already doing them. And have patience. 

Brian

For what its wortyh I agree. Dont dodge the problem. Get it checked out and recover. You will be in a much better place in the long run. May mean total shutdown now for the short term, but hey then you should be back full steam, or atleast in much better and more informed position than now.

Also I second the take a look at the pulling vs. pushing volume. Could be a reason due to a MAJOR inbalance.

Good luck , keep us informed.
Phill

I eliminated the shoulder problem by bringing my elbows closer to my rib cage while on the bench. The more I flared my elbows out, the more the shoulders would act up. A powerlifter friend of mine gave me the tip, as I was complaining about how my shoulders have been killing me.

It worked. There is an impingement or something that happens at your rotator when you flare your elbows out, into what you would think is “proper” form… by bringing your elbows in, there is less stress on them… I suppose it works on the same level as what an earlier post says about reverse grip… as your elbows most certainly would come in closer if you used that grip. Crazy but it seems to be true, at least for me.

Good luck

[quote]snippdawg wrote:
You may want to try floor presses or high board presses 3 or 4 board.[/quote]

Great advice. This will allow you to keep most of your bench strength and should be your way of training anyway cos anyone who does flat bench all the time will suffer shoulder problem eventually. Add Dumbbell presses to keep the bottom of the bench strong. And cocurrently work the rotators alot.

Ok you said you tried ART, huh. Well if the (Im assuming) Chiropractor didn’t help did you get a referral to see if the labrum of the shoulder was torn, or part of the rotators was ripped. Personally, I dont think that PT will help, b/c if your having problems like you say you are then man something is really messed up and more than likely its not muscle imbalance because that would not show up as your describing it, but then again I havent examined you and am just replying from what youve said. Good luck and please whatever it is that you do get it xrayed or mri. That will tell you the most. Later

[quote]Mr. Moose wrote:
I think a better longterm solution would be to to find out the reason for your shoulderproblems instead of trying to work around them.
[/quote]

I second that motion. Good advice Mr. Moose. I skirted around shoulder problems for years. It doesn’t work. Fix them so that you can effectively work with the money exercises. If you can’t bench, dip, or do overhead presses, it’s going to be mighty difficult to build a big chest, massive tris, or meaty shoulders.

donder1, have you tried doing just eccentrics withlight weights???

[quote]BFG wrote:
Mr. Moose wrote:
I think a better longterm solution would be to to find out the reason for your shoulderproblems instead of trying to work around them.

I second that motion. Good advice Mr. Moose. I skirted around shoulder problems for years. It doesn’t work. Fix them so that you can effectively work with the money exercises. If you can’t bench, dip, or do overhead presses, it’s going to be mighty difficult to build a big chest, massive tris, or meaty shoulders.[/quote]

Thanks BFG, but it’s really only common sense!

Too bad “common sense” isn’t that common :wink:

Thanks guys. I’m starting physical therapy for my shoulder this week.