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"Bum Shoulder Bench Press" Article: Bar Path

Technique Misinformation

“…The bar should go straight down and straight back up’ is incorrect.”

Data based on Dr Tom McLaughlin’s research from the 1980’s demonstrated the Barbell Bench Press trajectory is optimal when it travels in a arc.

McLaughlin went into even more detail in his book, Bench Press More Now.

Dr Greg Nuckols’ article (below) is based on McLaughlin’s research that was in the National Strength and Conditioning Research Journal.

Bench Press Bar Path: How to Fix Your Bar Path for a Bigger Bench

Paused Bench Press

This definitely decrease the stress placed on the shoulder joint compared to a Touch and Go; the slight bounce off the chest places more stress on the joint.

Additional Shoulder Issue Solutions

These method minimize shoulder stress…

1) Mastering The Reverse Grip Bench Press

Underhand Grip (Reverse Bench Press) minimizes shoulder stress.


“This will make you stronger and reduce shoulder strain.”

This because it is more of a neutral grip, which decreases shoulder stress.

Swiss/Football Bar

“Due to the fact the bar itself offers angled or truly neutral grips, it puts the shoulder in a less compromised position.”


  1. Bench Press Bar Trajectory

The Bench Press Barbell should travel in an arc; the optimal bar path.

  1. Reverse Grip Bench Pressing

It minimizes shoulder stress. There is a learning curve to it, as with everything. It took me a while get use to it.,

  1. Angled False Bench Grip

As Thibaudeau stated, this decrease the shoulder stress.

  1. Swiss Bar

This Barbell allows you to use a neutral or angled grip, which decreases shoulder stress.

It was one of my best investments.

Kenny Croxdale

As you often do when you go on these rants, Ken, you’re missing the forest for the trees.

Setting aside the fact that many big benchers do actually bench with a straighter bar path, you’re missing the actual context of that statement. Kuster said: “Ideally, the bar should go straight down and straight back up. If your bar path gets out of alignment, your shoulders can get out of position and round forward. When this happens, the head of the humerus moves forward which causes excessive stress across the tendons in your shoulder.”

It’s more about avoiding horizontal bar drift and avoiding the shoulder stress that would bring. In the article’s demo video, you can even see some slight arc to the movement even though it’s predominantly “straight down and back up”. Also worth keeping in mind, the advice is about prioritizing joint health, not benching 600.

From that article: “When you press the bar up, don’t press it backwards towards your face. Instead, try focusing on pressing it up in a straight line above your chest.
Attempting to press straight up will prevent the bar from drifting backwards too far and too fast and will allow you to have control of the bar throughout the concentric phase of the lift.”

From Kuster’s article: "You can tell someone to use dumbbells or a neutral-grip bar if they’re suffering through shoulder problems, but some people would rather repeatedly get kicked in the crotch than give up the barbell.

If you’re stubborn as a mule and don’t want to swap it for a more joint-friendly alternative, start doing paused reps."



You have some fundamental knowledge of Powelfiting/Strength Training.

However, you often don’t have enough information.

Nuckols’ article is a good place to start.

Kenny Croxdale

So, not really interested in addressing any of the counterpoints I brought up. Okee doke.
thanks for trying

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This is a great video about using Scapular Pushups if you have shoulder pain in the bench press. It’s a little drill to practice moving your shoulders blades without moving your spine, like you might do when you set up for a bench press.

Basically you get on your hands and knees, then pinch your shoulders blades together (retract) then push them forward, around your ribs(protract) while you keep your back straight. No flexing or extending your spine to cheat!

Action starts at 2:30.


I’ve ‘bitten the bullet’ and have given up on barbell pressing from any angle standing or seating. However, I’m finding my solutions are working for me better in regards to strength/muscle than BP ever did.

I’m using a 2x6 sometimes as a second lever and sometimes as a third class lever to add resistance and do progressive overload to push ups and pike push ups. I like this 2x6 lever option because it doesn’t require the coordination/mobility/balance that you see with other bodyweight progressions so I can focus on raw strength/muscle and using the 2x6 as a 3rd class lever eliminates the problems/limitations seen with weight vests and trying to stack weights on yourself.

Yes, there is a big core component to doing lifts like this but in principle this isn’t really any different than the core being a part of a big squat.

I get the article is about what you can do to not give up the bp, I’m just showing a way that giving up BP may not have any drawbacks.

I haven’t been working with this for too long (i haven’t been doing this for more than a few months) but so far my shoulders are loving this and I’m not having to cut my sets way short b/c I’m not afraid of my shoulders/RC giving me shit and I’m not spending half my training sessions on shoulder pre/re-hab.

2nd Class Lever

3rd Class Lever


Worth pointing out I think that there can be a disconnect between intended/perceived bar path and actual bar path. That is, an experienced bench-presser may report that s/he is endeavoring to push the bar in a straight line, and that it feels to him/her that the bar path is straight. However, if one were to determine the path the bar actually took, one would find it was curved.

Thus, if the author’s words are taken to mean that one should try to push the bar in a straight line, and that it should feel as if the bar is moving in a straight line, I see nothing to object to.


Why are the two mutually exclusive? He who trains the longest gets the strongest

Because one lengthens a career with one, and moves more weight with the other. You can still be benching at 50 with one, but with less weight than you would use in your prime with the other. If you want that fat total, sacrifices must be made.


Fair enough. In your own experience, what are some of the differences between benching for a total vs benching for longevity?

I honestly never benched for longevity, and abandoined it altogether for a number of years when I was competing in Strongman. We focussed on OH work and dropped all bench variants. In hindsight, that was a mistake. The guys that were in the gym training for total (And we had several 600+ benchers and one guy with an 800+ competition bench) focussed on straight bar path and a lot of things that inflamed joints and tendons off and on. If you’re being healthy, you drop things that hurt or change form to accomadate. If you are going for total, stuff hurting is just part of life and you put it out of your mind what the long term consequences wil be. Does a Scap bench like Hatfield poushed make sense? Yep. Does anyone train on one? Nope. Low bar squats torque the elbows and induce tendonitis? Yep. Change to high bar and lose 30-50 pounds from your total? Nope. You pay one way or the other. You pay in pain for the total, or you pay in pounds lost for comfort.


We’re living in the future now!

Everyone has moved their grip “In” on the bench press and now uses speciality bars in the squat to save their shoulders.

As a result, everybody is stronger! And people are lifting longer.


A narrower grip would be fairly counterproductive to my shoulder health, I believe. I typically bench with index on the rings (Max legal width) or sometime one finger narrower, any more than that would lead to a lot of extra shoulder rotation for me. I have monkey arms as it is. I think elbow angle may play a big part in joint stability, moreso than grip width. I do not have access to any fancy bars in Central America, but I did enjoy using an actual squat bar back in the day over a standard Power bar.

That wide benching stuff is PLAYED OUT!

Pinkies on the rings is the outer limit now. Hands inside elbows is the accepted way.

Don’t take my word for it.

Check out Hornstra



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When I bench ring finger on rings I’m less likely to feel pain radiating from essentially my trap to my armpit. It seems as if a narrower grip encourages my shoulder to rotate forward. Could it be that the lifters here don’t have long arms and their leverages allow them to be strongest with this somewhat more narrow grip? Am I just working around a weakness in my back shoulder?

Funnily enough not too long ago I was reading this

And my grip width is substantially wider than what’s outlined there. I don’t have a barbell at home but my pinkies were nowhere near the rings.

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Honestly, probably a little of both. These particular dudes are probably built in such a way that this works best for them. Tons of slender ladies bench wider than these guys.

Anyway, that doesn’t mean that You don’t have some kind of issue. Which shoulder gives you problems? Do you have any other (elbow) problems with that arm?

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My right shoulder. I do have tendonitis on the inside of my right elbow but that’s from too much vertical pulling.

I’m pretty confident my pec minor is overworked because the sensation starts in my scapula and runs through the torso to the front. Flat benching is no bueno, while a decent arch or a decline bench keeps the shoulder happier. Floor Press murders me worse than flat benching.

That’s about as much as I’ve managed to figure out

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Artery mentioned Internal Shoulder Rotation above. For your shoulder and elbow to work properly you NEED to be able to internally and externally rotate that upper arm bone. If you don’t have the rotation you start moving the shoulder in weird ways. Then you start doing weird stuff with your shoulders blades to pickup the slack for your shoulder joint (trap dominance/scapular diskenisis). Then you can’t flex or extend your arm properly and you get elbow problems.

To restore proper shoulder blade movement, do this move! It will teach you to use your serratus and not front delt. And your rhomboid and mid traps, not upper traps. You’ll probably have pain in your elbow, but it you work through it and figure out how to move your right shoulder blade you’ll be able to straighten your arm correctly.

Then do something like this to relearn internal rotation on that right shoulder. Go real slow, you don’t even need to move, you can just squuuueeeeeeeezzzze against the band resistance. This movement is for your Subscapularis. This is the muscle that your Pec Minor is compensating for. Restore subscap function and you’ll be in business!

As you get comfortable, rotate your palm towards the floor as your forearm comes “in” and rotate your thumb back “up” as your forearm moves “out.”

In a couple weeks, start working overhead.


Thank you!

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Yeah… people forget the benching ultra wide plays more into using a shirt. But again allot of it comes down to individuality imo.