T Nation

Building Chest Without BPs

In the last year I started getting back into lifting. I started when I was 14 (38 now)and have always been able to maintain a pretty muscular build.

This past year has been frustrating because it seems like after the first couple months go by and I start to push myself with heavier weight, I inevitably injure my shoulder doing flat benchpress. I get a searing pain deep in the joint and it knocks me out of commission for a couple of weeks.

I have tried stretching, strengthening my rotator cuff and rest but nothing seems to help. I have stopped short of the orthopod because…I guess I’m afraid of what he will find and tell me I need surgery.

Is there a way to build the pecs effectively without barbell bench? I feel this is the main weakness in my physique. I find that I pack on size in my shoulders and arms without much effort and have always felt that my chest is lagging behind.

Any advice/suggestions would be appreciated.

Make a choice. Continue to struggle and fail or get it checked out. See an orthopod, sports medicine specialist or a physical therapist. Or you can see a competent/recommended primary care physician or physician assistant. You need at least plain films done and a thorough exam.

Might need an MRI for possible labral tear. If so, try to get a gadolinium enhanced one. Don’t worry about surgery so much. Most shoulder complaints don’t require the knife (or the arthroscope). Unless your doc is in a hurry to make his kid’s tuition paymment this month, he will probably recommend aggressive physical therapy for at least 2 months prior to any possible surgery.

You’ve been in the weight game for 20+ years and have to ask if there is a way to build chest wo the flat bb bench. Come on.

If something hurts, don’t do it. There are sooooooo many other options.

Flat Benching is notorious for shoulder injury. Try Inclines (30 deg)with DBs first, if it feels good then work up to BB Inclines. If you still feel pain in doing the DB inlcine, see a doc. Other alternatives can be flys, pec dec and cable work, however if you injured your shoulder, then you are pretty much SOL for the short term.

First of all, if you injured your shoulder joint, don’t you think you want to know what the injury is so you can either rehab or get it fixed???

Secondly, it is no secret that the bench press will singlehandedly destroy the shoulder joint because most people do not know the proper technique. Do a search on this website for bench press technique.

Best exercise for building the chest is to do floor presses with barbell or dumbell. This restricts the range of motion (saving the shoulder joint) while working the exact same muscles in the chest as a normal bench press.

Overhead presses will also build up the chest muscles as well as good controlled dips, and pushups if you can do them.

Also how are you benching? Elbows out or powerlifting style elbows in?

Floor press, DB press, dips, decline bench are all good alternatives. Dips are rough on shoulders too though.

[quote]sasquatch wrote:
You’ve been in the weight game for 20+ years and have to ask if there is a way to build chest wo the flat bb bench. Come on.

If something hurts, don’t do it. There are sooooooo many other options.[/quote]

Sorry to insult your/my inteligence. I am aware of and have practiced alot of different exercises for chest. I guess what I was looking for was someone who had a similar problem that got good results from useing other specific exercises in lew of flat/incline bench.

[quote]ExNole wrote:
Also how are you benching? Elbows out or powerlifting style elbows in?

Floor press, DB press, dips, decline bench are all good alternatives. Dips are rough on shoulders too though.[/quote]

I never even thought about it before finding this site ( I had never really been exposed to power lifting)but the way I had been doing it is with elbows out (big suprise). I have experimented with keeping my elbows in but I don’t know if my technique was good. The weight has a tendency to get “stuck” towards the bottom of my range of motion. This holds true for flat and incline bench.

[quote]matt88 wrote:
ExNole wrote:
Also how are you benching? Elbows out or powerlifting style elbows in?

Floor press, DB press, dips, decline bench are all good alternatives. Dips are rough on shoulders too though.

I never even thought about it before finding this site ( I had never really been exposed to power lifting)but the way I had been doing it is with elbows out (big suprise). I have experimented with keeping my elbows in but I don’t know if my technique was good. The weight has a tendency to get “stuck” towards the bottom of my range of motion. This holds true for flat and incline bench.
[/quote]

Try and get your lats involved at the bottom. It’s almost the same motion as when you do a lat spread bb pose. It’ll get the weight started and it should help with it getting stuck.

[quote]matt88 wrote:
ExNole wrote:
Also how are you benching? Elbows out or powerlifting style elbows in?

Floor press, DB press, dips, decline bench are all good alternatives. Dips are rough on shoulders too though.

I never even thought about it before finding this site ( I had never really been exposed to power lifting)but the way I had been doing it is with elbows out (big suprise). I have experimented with keeping my elbows in but I don’t know if my technique was good. The weight has a tendency to get “stuck” towards the bottom of my range of motion. This holds true for flat and incline bench.
[/quote]

All the more reason to try floor presses. You may find reverse grip floor presses the best, they are very easy on the shoulders. Grip the bar as if you were going to do bb curls. The sticking point is different, so don’t go too heavy to start with.

Thanks for the words of wisdom. I’ll definitely try the push presses and to get my lats involved. Thanks again.

I have battled the same problem for years. Just when I started to get stronger my shoulders would force me to take a break. What I did was to switch to the decline press and improve my technique. No wide elbows.
My shoulders were so bad that if I slept on my side they would subluxate often. That does not happen anymore. I still get some pain but the joints are much stronger.

I would avoid floor presses until you are stronger since the overload will be substantially more than what is already causing you pain.


Definitely have an MRI and attempt physical therapy…cut the weight down for a while also…just do reps of 135 if your shoulders enable…try strengthening rotator cuffs… I had a sub-scapularis injury that had a pain level of a 4 when I benched so i did not think that it was worth surgerey…but does throw a monkey wrench into the training especially if you are trying to increase bench numbers… it does suck but not much you can do except give it time,ice and advil…

Try pushups using those u-shaped support handles they enable your chest to go further into a stretch than if you just had your hands on the ground…try those for a few weeks they work chest without putting a lot of strain on the shoulder joints…

[quote]david.civil wrote:
Try pushups using those u-shaped support handles they enable your chest to go further into a stretch than if you just had your hands on the ground…try those for a few weeks they work chest without putting a lot of strain on the shoulder joints…[/quote]

You mean “while putting a lot more strain on the shoulder joints.”
An excessive ROM is not what is indicated.

[quote]david.civil wrote:
Try push ups using those u-shaped support handles they enable your chest to go further into a stretch than if you just had your hands on the ground…try those for a few weeks they work chest without putting a lot of strain on the shoulder joints…[/quote]

I second the push up motion but without the excessive ROM offered by the stirrup handles as this might exacerbate the problem.

the push up allows a natural plain of motion resulting in the stabilizing contraction of the rotators and freedom of movement around the rib cage during inhalation and exhalation and also your scapulae are free to protract and retract naturally.

google push up programmes or search this site. Ladder programmes by Pavel Tsatsouline are very challenging give them a try?

But definetly get your shoulder checked out

Find a powerlifter and have him teach you how to bench.

[quote]jlesk68 wrote:
Find a powerlifter and have him teach you how to bench.[/quote]

This is what I was going to say.

I’ve had rotator cuff problems since I fucked it up playing football about five years ago.

After about three months of trying to perfect the form, I’ve finally got it down, elbows in, back arched, pushing down. My rotator hasn’t hurt since. It is fucking amazing.

Check Cressey’s Shoulder Savers articles…it’s worth it to do this. If you can find someone to show you hands on it will be better, of course.

I am a physical therapist that specializes in treating bodybuilders. Two things:
1.) Check how balanced your workout is. Multiply your reps x sets x weight for the bench and do the same for rows (the exact opposite muscle group). There should not be a discrepancy…if there is, it should be that the rows have a higher total. You can do this for all joints to remain “balanced”.

2.) Don’t give up on PT. Find a shoulder specialist in your area. Very rarely does someone have to give up benching.

Best of luck and I hope this helps.

Mike

I think I have been convinced to take the next step and at least get a diagnosis. I’m tired of waking up in the middle of the night with my shoulder aching and I’m tired of not being able to do the things in the gym that I know I can do.
As to finding a powerlifter to teach me proper bench technique, I lift in the basement of my house so that would be tough unless one of you guys lives in St. Louis and would be willing to make a house call!
I’ve been reading up on shoulder ailments and I think there is a possibility the pain may be r/t trigger points in my traps around the scapula. The pain is often generalized and radiates under my armpit and bicep. Just a thought but I’m still gonna get it checked.