T Nation

Flat Bench, Shoulder Issue


So five years into my training and eighty pounds later i'm finally facing two road blocks that although i likely don't need to address because what i've been doing has been working, i feel i do need to address because they are core elements to lifting and i bypass them too often.

i primarily use db's for chest and my staple movement is incline pressing at between 30-40 degrees. when i began 5 yrs ago i couldn't press the 35lb dbs. i was genetically very weak to start with. well, my incline press has increased as i've grown and i now can handle the 100-110's for reps. yahoo, my ego likes how much i've increased, my chest has grown.

i never flat bench. i never try to flat bench. i've done it two to three times prior to this last two week experiment. i had never attempted to flat bench more than 185!!!!!! crazy. the movement never felt right. not practicing something often makes something feel not right, go figure.

anyways. i've been training w/ a big fucker, ex marine recon, crazy genetic freak who has me doing full body training everyday. i know this will not work for me long term, not sure how he grows considering he trains full body 36+ sets 7 days a week, barely eats and is natural. he's bigger than me @ 510" 230lb very very lean to my 215lb @ 5'11 not as lean as him.

my goal is to train w/ him for a few weeks really drilling the movements and feeling of benching in particular. we are also squatting everyday. nuts i know but really i just want to develop **comfort under the bar. he has a theory that this volume and constant attack on the legs creates a huge Testosterone boost.

i get it, but his thoughts are that it's a magic boost and if you keep at it your strength goes up and the bar begins to feel like someone is lifting it for you. we'll see, the no rest you go i go shit does seem to be hyping me up and the squatting isn't super heavy, it's high rep. my legs were sore for the first few days but now seem to be handling it.

i've already told him that instead of 7 on i'm going two on one off because i know i cannot recover and will get hurt. i'm willing to try new shit but at nearly 37 i knwo what i can recover from.

anyway the squat stuff is fine. i usually front squat in the rack not going over 225-275 for a few reps then drop and do volume and/or "GASP" the dreaded smith machine squat! usually working up to four plates a side. i'm not a very strong dude genetically and have to work hard to keep improving. as said, i'm doing all this volume just to get my legs use to the movement of back squatting free, i'll reduce the volume and increase weight soon enough.

The point of this seemingly forever rant....MY BENCH.

well, as said never tried to go over 185, so i did 135 for like a million reps focusing on bringing the bar down to bottom of the chest, gripping hard, set feet, slight arch, dig in, slam traps and upper back into bench, retract scapula, big chest, angle arms at 45 angle, elbows in a bit. * all methods for keeping the shoulder healthy. * yes i know benching evreyday will not create healthy shoulders. this is an experiment to develop a better comfort/technique/mind muscle connection. to get better at anything you must drill it.

several friends have said the form was great. it felt good. i did 185. 225 for 5. 250 for three. i know these are shitty numbers but again i'm really concerned with getting this right form wise, health of the shoulder wise, and to grow, not necessarily be a power lifter.

tonite. on 225 after warming up w/ 135, i brought the bar down to my chest, i had been going about an inch above prior to this; as i pressed i felt bad things in my left shoulder, the one i already have rotator cuff issues with. it only felt worse after, pain is modrate but i have full range of motion, front raise position hurts a bit.

ice, heat. FUCK YOU. this is why i've avoided flat bench. i seem to know all the proper ways to do it, i'm a bright mother fucker, apparently not bright enough to avoid fucking my shit up. i just wanted to practice it, i still do. yes there are other ways to a huge chest but flat bench works, it worked for all those 70's cats...no one had a weak looking chest.

the pec is fine, i think the internal shoulder is fine, overstretched touching the chest i suppose, the pain is in the anterior deltoid. it should be good in a day or two w/ rest. i'm just fucking angry. i seem to be hitting a grow time right now, refining a bit, weight coming up but looking leaner and leaner. not wanting a set back but wanting to work on this flat bench stuff.

i know the methods for keeping it out of my shoulder, but in theory they work, when i get under the bar it seems my shoulders want in on the movement. i'll likely re-read this book i've just written and then answer it myself after i pick it apart. any others w/ input on benching thoughts experiences, insights, please chime in.

i've seen Dave Tate's shit. i get it. that big arch floor drive shit seems to mess w/ my back. i want to bench for chest hypertrophy not to win any PL trophies. that said, w/out eventually getting my #'s up my chest will only grow so much. i should drill light weights, i should limit my ROM to an inch + off the chest. there has to be more secrets than these.

i'm just fucking pissed tonite. sorry this rant isn't more concise. fix my fucking shoulder please.


keeping arms perpendicular to the body might aggravate your shoulder while flat pressing

i know for me it does but on incline i can do it pain free

try tucking your elbows, maybe


thanks, but you mis-read. 45 degrees indicates angled/tucked, 90 degrees would be perpendicular and your correct would place the movement in the shoulders more so. thanks for reading my shit anyways.


Here are a few take aways from your post:

Flat BB Bench Hurts your shoulder/chest.

Incline DB Bench does NOT hurt your shoulder/chest.

Incline DB Bench has made your chest grow to a point where you're happy with it.




yup. that's the cliffnote-- but the rub, the rub...

i want to bench, i think it will help me grow more. it's like a cut on the roof of my mouth i cannot stop licking at. after a few yrs you think, what else could i add or substract to improve. yes inherently now i have a far better understanding what works for my body, but trying something for just two weeks out of five yrs doesn't seem enough time to make a fair judgement. the other side though, fucking injuring yourself in exploration isn't a good prospect.

i'm just wrting down my thoughts and views on what occurred. i appreciate your summary and your right but i just want to keep growing, use all the tools i can. if it is going to be a movement i cannot do w/out setbacks i'll drop it.

  • key is - i'm happy but could be happier. we all want more, at least i do.

now that i'm thinking...it is a bit of an EGO thing, as i grow an do get/look bigger i want to put a few wheels on per side and push weight. i'll have to sit w/ this for a bit now. check myself. it seems natural to desire that, but ultimately as a lifter who didn't begin until after thirty and am now nearing in on 37, i should have better control over the hedonistic side of my lifting. the "what do you bench bullshit question" could very well take me out of the game if i fuck my shoulder badly. i do believe there are other ways to grow, likely more effective ways for some/many as i've grown a lot myself, but if i can squeeze growth out of this movement i want to. just don't want to do it if the cost is too high.


gotcha. wasnt sure whch you meant on that one...

any way if its a relatively new movement for you maybe just try warming up more. i mean 135-225 is a pretty big jump when you look at it

a year or two ago i hadnt DB benched it at least 2 months then decided to randomly one day. warmed up with the 40's just to get the blood flowing, jumped to the 70's and on the first rep coming back down felt a sharp pain in the upper chest. couldnt continue. woke up the next morning and the area was black and blue but def not a tear. couldnt do chest for about 3 weeks.

anyway like its been said a hundred times if it hurts dont do it


WIth the arch hurting your back, do you stretch hips before benching - give it a try if you want to persist with flat benching.


well, you say that you felt pain in the anterior deltoid.

if you really must continue to bench, how did you warm up and stretch, exactly? also, a vid might help.


dont see why you would do somthing that fucks up your shoulders.

this is bodybuilding, the art of training around injuries. if you were powerlifting you had no way out, you need the BB bench. when i fucked up my shoulders i stopped training BB all together and moved to DB only. even then, i press them with a neutral grip, infact all of my pressing is neutral. ofcourse as a result you could be pressing 110's and find yourself unable to rep 225 BB 1 time. you lose your neurological efficiency on that movement and strength turns to shit.

i guess what im saying is you can grow a monster chest with heavy ass DB's. so IF it feels like hell on your RC, ditch it.


I hear ya... I started out doing only DB's for chest and I regret it now. My chest grew ok, but my shoulders and tri's are lagging. Basically I look like I don't press heavy, and that's all too true.

You may want to post this in the powerlifting section. If anyone knows how to work around pain and injuries, it's those guys. Dave Tate has a bench series on youtube where he's coaching a guy with shoulder pain, might want to take a look at that too.


I feel your pain lol

I remember when you posted a pic of yourself before lifting, and I thought it was me! (similar weak beginner builds).

Anyway, yeah the bench is like a love-hate thing. I gave up trying to make myself work for the exercise (like it's slave), and started making the exercise work for me.

Like you said, there's something to be said about the heavy loading on a bb bench that keeps the growth coming (not to mention ego)...so I just modified the lift a little - main thing is not allowing the bar to touch the chest (allow a few inch gap). If it helps, wear a padded/puffy coat, it helps if you live in a country like mine :slight_smile: Or use a block

I've experimented with this lift quite a bit, and EVERY single time I lower the bar to chest I get what you mentioned (rotator cuff thingy). Worked up to it every time. I guess a closer grip helps, but it take the chest out of it quite a bit. People can think what they like ("oh he's cheating!!!"), but I progress that way, and without injury :stuck_out_tongue:


What movments are you doing for external roatation in your lifting? Do flat DB's with your hands slightly turned in hurt as much? Do you have a Video of you bench you could throw up on the inner webs? Foam rolling at all?


Are you working your shoulders at all before the bench session? I know John Meadows is an advocate of doing shoulders first to get them warm and primed for the chest workout. Also, are you sure your pain is in the delt or could it be a tight pec minor? I don't flat BB bench either. Like you, I could never get it to feel just right.

I like the DB's. I like to dictate the path my arms will travel, etc. to be the most comfortable and allow for the best MMC. If your deadset on trying to make this work, have you considered trying the smith machine? May feel a little different for you, may not......


i had the same problem, so i switched to decline barbell pressing. no shoulder pain and it kills my chest. give it a try? according to dorian yates decline is a far superior movement to flat barbell pressing. try broomstick dislocations as a warmup, it helps.



These feel even better with a band IMO


wait...your friend barely eats and is 5'10 230 lean ?? pics of the next mr olympia plz


mmm............you get the pain when bar is at the bottom,yes? and you wrote that your form on the bench was good,right? you could use reverse bands to have less load on the bottom and more at the top for squeezing or using a pretty strong band a/o lighter loaded bar to do band press....also,if you are looking for big pecs why flat bench bb pressing? dbs have given to you a bigger chest with no pain,many PLers/benchers have a monstrous strenght and a flat chest (paired with big tris and delts) so it is just an Ego question???

PS; strangely, i did your opposite ; starting with flat bb benching,no pain,good loads&triceps but flat chest, and switched to inclined dbs bench; less load on joints,more stimulus on chest (I hope) :slight_smile:


The things you will want the most you cannot always have its that simple

It sounds like you want to do bench press for the sake of doing bench press to me from what Ive read

If there are pain free ways to make your chest grow then why would you insist on doing the one that causes you pain?

Im not trying to be a jerk im just being honest, I dont think its going to be as promising a chest exercise in the end for you as you think it will be even if you suffer through it, even if you had no pain to begin with


first off. thanks for the replies thus far, ice and heat it seems/feels a bit better. i'm resting it for the next day or two, haven't taken more than three days of in a while, we'll see.

i recall dorian having a preference for declines, perhaps declines and inclines w/ DB's. as i sit here typing the shoulder area feels tight w/ a dull pain. shit.

addressing the post above about my training partner, i'll see if he lets me snap a pic, we've become friends but met at the gym when i approached him asking how/why he trains legs like every single day. as mentioned he's ex-marine recon he's 230 lean abs visible, not 230 step on stage. folks seem to think that abs showing and being a bit veiny means your just a blink away from olympia level lean...it's not the case. he eats, i just joke w/ him because he states the marine thing still fucks w/ him going long times w/out food and eating shit real quick. he has good genetics, that is a fact, but a different thread/story.

anyway...i wasn't sure of the responses i'd get, but figured many would be similar to my views once i really broke down what happened. pretty sure it's the shoulder but could be the tie in area of the chest, no pain in the chest area at all, and am able to flex it.

i get that perhaps this thread could go into rehab/injury section it was there and i asked for it to come back here for a while first, likely providing a few more bodybuilder suggestions and/or similar anecdotes.