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Can't Touch Chest on Bench


I was wondering if anyone has seen this issue before. I’ve had issues with my bench for awhile, in that as the bar reaches my chest on the eccentric, my right shoulder would roll forward. Because of this, I lose a ton of power and stability. I assumed it was just an upper back weakness, so I made sure I was doing a ton of upper back work, but it didn’t help. After looking at it from a differently, I found that I don’t have the necessary ROM in my right shoulder and even without any weight, I can only get my right hand to a couple inches from where a bar would be able to touch and then it stops and I have to roll my shoulder to get the last couple inches. This is all even with an arch. Does anyone have any thoughts on how I can attack this ROM issue?



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Stretch the pecs hard immediately postworkout from a variety of angles…

Perfect world get some Graston or ART treatment on the delt/pec area as well

Thanks, I’ll definitely give that a shot! Awesome video. That was probably the best explanation I’ve seen, and put really simply.

arch more.

a video would be very helpful. How much is your max bench? I know this sounds irrelevant, but knowing how experienced you are with benching would be useful. A max bench gives us an idea of how advanced you are.

Stretch out that pec, Biceps, lat. Get that shoulder moving.

Get your external rotation back. I like these.

And these.

In one of his “Washed Up Meatheads” routines, DeFranco says to do some of this stuff after every set of any pressing. Re-teach yourself to get that right shoulder into proper position.

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Flipcollar: I’ll see if I can set up a video when I get to the gym tomorrow. It’s not bench day, but I’ll go though my set up and a couple reps. Right now, my max bench is around 300. I haven’t worked up to a true 1 RM in a awhile, but have recently done 3 with 270 and a single after with 295. The most I’ve ever done is 325. While not absolutely horrible, at 6’ 230 lbs and 22 years of training, it should be a lot higher.

Flatsfarmer: I’ll definitely try those exercises.

Thanks for the help!

Ok, I just wanted to check back in with an update. I tried the stretches from the video RampantBadger linked and it was nothing short of a miracle. Just a couple 30 sec holds and I was able to bench pain free for the first time in years

I had been doing the second stretch, with my elbow in line or slightly below my shoulder, fairly regularly when I felt tight, but it never helped much. I had never heard of, or thought of, doing the first stretch, with my elbow higher than my shoulder, but I knew something was different as soon as I tried it. I was so tight, that at first I couldn’t get my arm past in-line with my body. Once I gained some ROM, I tried benching and had full ROM and no pain.

Next is to keep up with the stretch to make it more permanent and to build some stability in the new ROM, so I’ve been adding the exercises in the video FlatsFarmer linked. As I pressed, my pec wanted to pull my shoulder forward (not rolling forward like it used to, but just out of retraction) and I really had to concentrate on keeping it back. The good news is, as long as I thought about it, I was able to keep my shoulders back, so I just need to train it.

I tried getting a video, but I was training at a commercial gym the last couple days and people kept walking between the camera and bench, so I couldn’t get anything good. I’m at my normal gym for the next week, so I’ll be able to get one. As I’m now more concerned about my over all technique and I wouldn’t mind some advice on my squat and deadlift as well, I’ll probably get video of all three and throw it up in it’s own thread.

Thanks again for all the help! I really appreciate it.


You probably have weak upper back muscles if you have a hard time keeping your shoulder blades retracted. If you’re not doing rows then start, and squeeze your shoulder blades together for a second or two on each rep. I would recommend chest supported rows or seated cable rows if they are an option. You can also do some rear delt flys AKA rear laterals and band pull aparts for high reps, once again focusing on squeezing the shoulder blades on each rep.

I agree 100% that your upper back can’t be too strong. To that end, I do a ton of rows, chest supported, bent over, cable, etc. At this bench weight, I don’t think back strength is the issue - my left shoulder stays locked in and I can keep my right shoulder back, I just need to consciously think about it at this point. I feel it is more of a coordination/technique issue. I do like the idea of holding a squeeze for a second or two on each rep and will start incorporating that.

I know, though, that if I want my bench to go up from here, I need a larger/stronger back.


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Most people that claim you need to train your back hard for your bench to go up are people who compete in equipment. For raw benching I don’t really see a correlation, although it will probably help your deadlift. In your case, it sounds like it really is a technique issue so fix that before you blow out a shoulder.

You might try benching off the pins in the power rack for a little extra work.

You can pull yourself into better, tighter position before every rep. All this time at the bottom will let you “practice” this portion of your bench press.

Have a bench day where you pause each rep for 3+ seconds.

Also, stretching with the barbell on the bench, one arm at a time. Lie down, unrack bar, keep one arm locked but lower the other. Pause and wiggle around a bit.

Awesome suggestions from everyone. I definitely have some thinking to do. I have a lot to work on here and I also have other technique and strength stuff to work on. Not having my bench go up in about 10 years sucks.

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I’ve had a similar problem. Either my shoulder would roll forward, or I couldn’t get my arm to fully extend.

My shoulder was ‘frozen’.

Standard static or dynamic stretching didn’t fix it.

Shoulder pre/re-hab movements didn’t fix it.

Improving my form didn’t fix it.

Recently, I decided to pull my rumble roller out of my closet and rolled my mid and upper back, lats, and back of my shoulders spending extra time on the tight sore knotty spots.

I also did some PNF stretching which helped unfreeze it too.

I was so tight and and it had been so long since I had done the rumble rolling that I felt pretty sick afterwards (PMSM- post-massage soreness and malaise) for a couple of hours, but I finally have my ROM back and now regular stretching seems to be keeping it from sticking back before rolling it out.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve had this much ROM in my right shoulder. It’s nearly as much as my healthy left now!

I can’t promise this will do the trick for you, but I didn’t see it mentioned so I thought I’d go ahead and toss it to you.

Thanks, Fletch. I definitely have some spots in my lats/upper back to work out as well.

I finally got a video of my bench. This is with 285. I didn’t go any higher as I didn’t have a spotter. The good new is, it was don’t pain free and with no shoulder movement. I can remember the last time I could say that. I did the stretches/exercises before and made sure my shoulder stayed down during my all of my warm up sets.

Any critique will be much appreciated.


I don’t think that anyone can see what’s going on with your shoulder blades but you touched your chest and everything looks decent in that regard. However, it looks like you could work on your setup a bit. You are breathing right up until a split second before the bar descends (I can see your belly moving up and down), what you should do is take a breath and brace like you would for a squat or deadlift before you unrack the bar. Hold your breath and maintain tension until the bar comes back up, only take another breath if you are doing reps.

Thanks, Chris. If my benching from yesterday is any indication for the future, I’m actually ok with my shoulder blades, for now at least. I implemented what you and the others suggested and my back/shoulders felt solid. (I can’t thank everyone enough) Because of that, I wasn’t too worried about getting them in the video. I wasn’t really sure what angle to take the video from.

I noticed the exact same thing in my set up and it is something I need to work on. I find that I will feel tight before I unrack the bar, but as soon as I take it out, it takes me a second to make sure I’m set. I find something that doesn’t feel right and end up trying to adjust. I really noticed it with my feet - I will think I set up tight, but once I unrack, I tend to shift my feet to somewhere I feel a bit stronger.

I will work on setting up right in the first place and holding my breath and position throughout.


Excellent!! That’s so satisfying to hear.

If that upper one helps can try this one with bands to crank it up a notch also, personally find done best mid workout(4:30 onwards)…

Replacing some of the rows with plenty of palms facing-you Lat pulldowns/vertical pulling will probably help then as well

After a street bike accident and turning 40, I have the same issue. The pain in my left left shoulder leaves me grimacing and feeling like an old man. Light weight and warm up sets I’ll touch, but when adding weight – 200+, I don’t dare. I noticed pushing my elbows in helps a great deal.
Gonna give that post work out stretch a try. Thanks!