T Nation

Can't Benchpress - What to Do Instead


Hi, I've been lurking for a few months and didn't know whether to post here (in PL) or in the newbies section.

I started powerlifting this Jan, everything's going fine except for my benchpress - first there was mysterious around-the-scapula pain that kept me at around 100 lbs, once that cleared up i injured myself somehow and could barely manage a pushup, when that cleared up I was warming up with light weight and felt a twinge in my rotator cuff and...well, now I can safely press the bar 50x with no pain, but putting collars on is too heavy/hurts.

It looks like I'll never be a champion benchpresser, but I'd like to not get super-weak as I rest, so I'm doing chin-ups, dumbell rows and triceps pulldowns, (all of which need some work).

Dips and flies are out.

Any tips?


wat about inlcine and pressing over the head ?


Can you perform partials? Like board pressing?


It's a problem when my arms are out in front of me, on the way up, so overhead is doing fine.

I haven't tried boardpresses yet, sounds like a great idea since the pain starts just as the bar changes direction and that would avoid the bad spot altogether.



see a medical specialist


Try very light dumbells and allow the hands to find a painless groove. Palms facing helps me. Partial range of motion is not a bad idea. I'd also try floor press with dumbells as well. Onc workout per week for the chest is probably a good idea and do some shoulder flexibility stuff at least 2 other days.

Read some Cressey as well.


It sounds like you need to take better care of yourself. Short of some kind of substantial, immediate trauma to your shoulder, there is no reason why you can't bench press heavy. Read some stuff on capsule problems and sliding surface dysfunctions, figure out what the problem is, and start doing mobility work to correct it. Also, does your form suck? If you can quickly say yes, find people who bench more than you and study what they do. Then do that.

Check out mobilitywod.com for some shoulder mobility drills. The 5-way shoulder one should cover just about everything.

Don't go the easy way and just avoid benching. Find the problem and fix it before it becomes a serious medical issue later on.


Pull your head out of your ass and go see an Orthopedic Surgeon to get it properly assessed.


I'm extremely flexible and don't feel pain well.
Add 6 years of BJJ and no surprise that things go wrong.
The shoulders started to act up ~5 years ago and I've gone to various doctors every couple of years. Basically there was a "burny feeling" that I guess is what other people call "pain",I didn't know what it was, iced it, and kept on training BJJ. Now I know to stop whatever I'm doing when I feel that feeling.

Also, usually when I go see a doctor they insist I'm fine and give me NSAIDs. I don't...present pain well(obviously) and they think I'm there for drugs or a am a hypochondriac, give me exercise bands and tell me to do the mobility exercises, which I do.

What I have been doing wrong is not insisting on MRI, but I have usually have full mobility and no pain in most of real life.

Deadlifting seems to have cured my upper back/back of shoulders pain, but now the front is acting up.


You should definitely insist on a MRI. A lot of times they really don't even know how bad shoulder damage is until they start surgery, and without the MRI, they'll never get that far.


benched 50 kg 5x5 yesterday
easy :slight_smile:

doesn't sound like much, but the past few weeks it's been:
"can you spot me? I put the collars on the bar and don't want to drop it on myself again."


Are you certain you're using the correct form? Not to insult, but I rarely see anyone using the correct form on major lifts.

I'll echo to push for an MRI too. Just for peace of mind.