No More Bench Press?

Here is my problem: i keep injuring my pec in the bench even with ridiculously light weights. I already switched to the close grip (around shoulder widt), form is ok (elbows tucked, etc), but it keeps happening. Its always moderate strains that heals in a few weeks, but often i feel the injury will happen while i’m ramping the weight and i have to stop the exercise. I also hurt my pec once doing DB Inclines.

So my questions are:

1-Does anybody have some good ideas on making the pecs stronger against tears/strains?

2-I train in a lift split similar to 5/3/1(bench/squat/military/deadlift), what lift do you guys sugest to use in place of bench? I was thinking about Partial Bench after reading this : , some consider the Incline Bench safer, so it could be an option, or maybe even doing only DBs for now on.

3-Would be a bad idea eventually try to do close grip bench pressing (regular grip is out of question) again? Or shouldnt even bother (i dont compete in powerlifting).

I apreciate any help.

Well, you said you don’t compete in PL, so what are you using the bench for? is there a variant that accomplishes your goal and does not hurt you?

How are your triceps?

How’s your rowing?

Switch to dumbells until you max them out at your gym for decent reps then revisit the barbell bench problem.

[quote]thirdnalga wrote:
Well, you said you don’t compete in PL, so what are you using the bench for? is there a variant that accomplishes your goal and does not hurt you?

How are your triceps?

How’s your rowing?[/quote]

I was using the bench to build the chest, shoulder and tris muscles and pushing strength for sports (muay thai and grappling), while i never competed in powerlifting its something i would like to do someday, just for fun, but its not my focus.

I think for the next cycle at least, i’m going to play safe and use the DB Floor Press. But (maybe i’m wrong) i feel that the DB lifts , while great for assistance, are not as good as the BB ones as core lifts. Thats why i was asking about alternatives: BB Incline, Partial (board) Bench, etc… Probably any of these would accomplish my goals IF i can do it safely in the long term.

About tris and back: its pretty odd when doing bench, even close grip, i feel the chest more, and it gets more sore than the triceps. Dips are more 50%/50% chest and triceps. So i’m probably “chest dominant” even doing a lot more stuff for my triceps than for my chest. As far as rowing, i’m (much)stronger in pulling movements than in pushing movements and i also balance the volume, one set of pulling for evry set of pushing.

Thanks for the response.

[quote]sufiandy wrote:
Switch to dumbells until you max them out at your gym for decent reps then revisit the barbell bench problem.[/quote]

For now i’m probably going with DBs, but i want to solve this pec problem even if i dont do the flat BB bench, because i got hurt once with DBs too (but it was after the BB bench, so i’m not sure it was really the cause).

thanks for the response.

Get a bar with the parallel handles. I think EFS calls it a football bar or a SWIS bar, not sure which.

If that is not an option, floor press with a barbell or DB press with palms facing each other will both work.

Also, you might want to try getting a sports massage in that area, and then use a la cross ball on your pec minor before and after benching.

Just some ideas. I have been having the same problem recently with my left pec minor.

I had recurring pec strains over several months at one point. Here’s what finally got everything right again:

  1. Take plenty of time off of anything remotely heavy for benching. Do higher rep rehab work. Start with a bar and add a small amount of weight each week.
  2. Do isometric holds for 30 seconds in various parts of the ROM for push-ups. This will strengthen and rehab any injured muscle fibers in various ranges of stretch.
  3. Stretch your pecs and shoulders every day. I was super tight in my left shoulder and that’s the side I had most of the problems with. I think the tight shoulder was transferring more of the load to the pecs. Make sure you stretch into the externally rotated position.
  4. Do very, very light DB flyes to stretch the muscle and promote blood flow.
  5. Hit the overhead work hard while you are rehabbing the pec. I did this and improved my overhead strength. I also came back stronger than ever on the BP without having done a heavy BP in 8+ weeks.
  6. Think about firing your triceps to start the bar up out of the bottom of the BP. This may help with your “pec dominance”.

Man I have this same problem And it SUCKS! Everyone knows benching is the best thing in the world:( Here are the changes I made

  • Drop the bench press
  • Do floor presses with a barbell regular or close grip, weighted dips, machine presses
  • Strech shoulders pecs and upper back alot
  • Buy a trigger wheel. its a little self massage device you can pick one up from
  • Know when to back off and when to push it sounds simple but training chest its easy for me to get carried away with a ton of sets or always tring to add weight. switch it up

Thanks for the advice guys!

I’ll do the DB floor press for a while in the place of bench, as i feel its the most safe horizontal pushing movement.
I’m already doing a lot of stretching, but seems like i have been neglecting this soft tissue stuff. I’ll get a rubber ball to do this.
For strenghtening, i’ve been doing pushup holds as SRS2000 sugested, i’ll try some flyes to see if it helps.

One more question: many consider the BB floor press a safer alternative to the flat bench, how about the board press? Since it also limits the ROM it would be as good as floor press? Or the fact you are resting the load in the floor each rep makes the floor press safer?

having delt with the same issue for well over a decade I think SRS2000’s post is terrific advice!!

isometric deep push-up holds have been very helpful, just be careful at first !!make sure you are anchoring with your lats while doing these!!!

Although i developed a very strong BenchPress (500 for reps), I did so without learning how to “anchor” the position with my lats & paid the price

DO NOT even think about benching without an EXTREME shoulder girdle depression throughout the entire movement

fyi- floor presses did not seem to help my cause, give 'em a shot to find out for yourself

more fyi, i have worked up to 2 min for the pushup holds

best wishes

My advice would be to actually let it heal. Just because something feels better doesnt mean it is healed. I know a bunch of lifters who have gotten hurt, waited a week, felt better, and made something worse. I myself used to have alot of recurring injuries. Usually something recurring like that is the result of not actually fixing the problem.

Take some time off, then come back with extremely light high rep dumbbell bench…i mean around 50 % for 20’s, or somewhere in that range, and slowly work the weight up and the reps down.

Its a bitch and very humbling but it works.

When my back was badly hurt, I had to make myself take a few weeks of nothing but upper body, then started squatting again with 135, then the next week a triple with 185, then 225 the next week. I then spent the next few months squatting twice a week, going up 30 lbs each session for a triple, wearing a belt after 225.

It sucked but by the time I got up to a triple with 405, my back was stronger and healed.

the more historic heavy training volume you have the more valuable time off is

if you’ve only been training a few years be careful of removing load all together

Ernie Frantz coached me to a lifetime best squat 12 months out of a patellar tendon rupture, Ernie’s method was to start training it as soon as possible, by the way that injury was in '94 & no issues since

be smart, but from my professional observation if you do not have a lot of training experience time off is not as valuable, the other side of the coin seems to be the opposite, time off does seem to magically “reset” things after a certain training history

… my .02 of course

If you are getting recurrent strains, especially if they are always on the same side, in the same area, I’d say there is a structural weakness and the scar tissue either hasn’t fully developed and keeps tearing, or it isn’t developing along the lines of stress (i.e. along the lines of the muscle fibres) making in more susceptible to tearing.

Along with SRS2000’s excellent advice, I’d say really work on the soft tissue quality of the whole shoulder girdle. Good massage should do the trick, then after the massage, when the fibres are relaxed do your stretches to promote the new length of the muscles. Self myofascial release to the area would be a good idea in addition to massage, especially if frequent massage is not affordable for you. Mike Robertson had an excellent free ebook on the topic, if you are interested I can send it across.

One more thing, when you do doorway style pec stretches, be sure to anchor your scapula down and back, as if you were rowing, so as to minimise stress on the shoulder capsule.

You might be benching too fast. Yes there is such a thing, if I go too quick on squat my right knee flames up hard whether I use the bar or my max. You could be experiencing something similar for bench. You could also try warming up even more on the bench, see what happens.

Have you tried yet if the problem is related to internal rotation?
And do you press in a curve towards your head or in a straight line?

I’d definitely look into soft tissue work like ART. The recurrence of this injury shows that even extended time off will not recoup the injury

Guys, thanks a lot for the advice.

One thing p-dub mentioned that i think i was missing is stretching the upper back. I was doing a lot of pec stretching but maybe the pecs were irritaded because they are always trying to compesate a upper back tighteness… Rolling the pec, for releasing the soft tissue seems to helping too.

daraz, i don’t think its the case: i always warm up a lot, i start with 1 or 2 sets with the bar and only add more weight after it feels right, if not i repeat that warm up weight. And faster sets with less weight dont seems to cause problem, its always the heavier sets.

spongechris, would mind elaborating about this problem? I try to push the bar in direction to my feet, but its mostly the feel i try to get because the path of the bar is actually vertical.

The pecs also function as internal rotator, but how much varies also depending on how you press. However, i am not sure if it would impact positively to change it.