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Pec Cramp or Tear on Bench?


The other day I was doing a bench workout, first I did touch & go bench and then moved onto Spoto press. On the first work set of spoto presses I got a strange feeling of tightness on the right side of my chest on the fourth rep as I started to press the weight up. It didn’t hurt, it felt like someone grabbed my chest or something. I was about to rack the weight but the feeling went away so I did another two reps, no pain or tightness or anything. Everything felt normal afterwards and I figured it was just a cramp so I did two more sets and then moved onto some accesory work with no issues, but later in the afternoon my right pec minor felt more sore than expected. I started to wonder if maybe it was a tear, but there is no swelling or bruising and it doesn’t really hurt. However, I was reading some stuff about pec tears and it sounds like it could potentially be a grade 1 tear. Also, lots of people who tear their pecs reported some minor issues like this at first but then later went on to have a serious injury.

Does anyone on here have experience with pec tears? And has anyone had a cramp in their chest while benching? I have never had either before. At this point I’m thinking I should bring my grip in a bit, right now I go with ring finger on the rings. I don’t have any more benching planned until tomorrow and my chest feels fine at the moment but I’m concerned that I might be on my way to a torn pec.


If you’re concerned just don’t do chest tomorrow, instead go to a doctor. But, I don’t think that you had realy teared your peck. I believe that it was just a cramp.


Symptoms of a pectoralis major strain

Symptoms of a pec major sprain will include a sudden sharp pain at the front of the upper arm near the shoulder where the pec major tendon attaches. There is likely to be rapid swelling of the front of the shoulder and upper arm. Tests which will reproduce pain and help confirm the diagnosis include getting the patient to pull their arm across the front of the chest or rotate it inwards against resistance. A visible gap or lump in the muscle may appear.


My experience with muscle tears is, you will certainly know when it occurs.

Did you drink heavy this weekend? Could just be dehydration and cramping.


There’s nothing that a doctor could do at this point anyway, plus the medical system in Canada is starting to sounds like Venezuela. Hospitals at 120%+ capacity, beds in offices, people waiting in storage rooms, etc. That’s another story.

I was looking into it some more this afternoon, I’m not sure that you can tear the pec minor without tearing the pec major as well, most pec tears seem to be just pec major alone from what I have read. I’m going to bench tomorrow but if anything hurts I’m stopping right there, and I think I will bring my grip in a bit. I used to bench with a narrower grip but I moved it out about a year and a half ago, mostly on the advice of other people who were telling me it would give me better leverages/shorter ROM. I see some guys like Jeremy Hoornstra and James Strickland benching over 600 with a close grip, maybe wider grip is overrated.


Can you strain or tear pec minor without affecting pec major? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. There was no real pain, just a weird feeling while benching and soreness that started a few hours later, and only in my chest. I hope I’m overreacting.


I rarely have more than 3-4 drinks anyway, and I didn’t drink any alcohol for 2-3 days before. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t dehydrated either, I drink lots of water all the time and Gatorade while I train.

Has anyone else had a pec cramp while benching? I have never heard of that before.


I just found this on researchgate:

“Multiple pectoralis major tendon tears have been reported in the literature; however, isolated rupture of the pectoralis minor tendon is rare and has been reported 3 times (4 patients).”


That type of information is above my pay grade… worst case see a Doc.


I would say take 10 days off any free weight chest work and do some high rep hammer machine /smith pressing etc. Also lacrosse ball the hell out of the all the pec.

Perfect world get some deep tissue massage or ART on whole pecs and delt area.

Yeah try with closer grip, false grip can really help also…


You can tear the peck minor without tearing the pec major, yes. But if you had teared it, man you would had noticed, and you would be in a hospital, bad or good hospital.
I believe that you had a bad form and it lead to some kind of failure on the muscle and it cramped.

You should avoid working the minor peck for a week, just to be safe, do some mobility work as said before.
And don’t go with 100% on your first chest work, is better take to steps back, and go slowly again to where you was before. You probably just had a cramp now, but next time it can really be a tear, so better safe than sorry.


I did my bench workout today as originally planned, except moved my grip in by about 2.5 inches on each side. I was ready to drop the bar and quit at the first sign of any pain or anything resembling a strain, but nothing happened. I probably just have a tight pec minor, I haven’t been doing much stretching or anything of that sort so I will start. Seeing as only 4 cases of pec minor tears without pec major tearing as well have been recorded, the odds of me tearing my pec minor are astronomically small.

  1. No way (without MRI) to tell which muscle you injured.
  2. Sounds like a grade 1 tear.
  3. When lifting, if you feel something NOT RIGHT, STOP. DO NOT DO MORE SETS. GO HOME. EverytimeI got hurt it was because of ignoring this.
  4. Grip width is very individual. For example, close grip hurts me more than wide.
  5. Look up Dave Tates method of bench setup andpay attention to it.
  6. Look up the Starr method of rehab.


I assumed it was the pec minor for two reasons, the discomfort seemed to be underneath the pec major and it was in the exact place that you would see the pec minor on any anatomical muscle diagram. You are right though, without an MRI you can’t really tell what happened, and around here the wait for an MRI can be over a year unless you can afford a private clinic so it’s better to play it safe.

That’s exactly what I thought later in the day when it happened, that it could be a grade 1 tear. From what I read, a grade 1 tear can potentially heal in a few days. Do you know anything about that? At this point it looks like it’s fine since I got through yesterday’s bench session without any issues.

I have Josh Bryant’s book “Bench Press: The Science”, in it he refers to a study which found that a bench grip of 1.5x biacromial width (distance between acromions) or less has a significantly lower risk of pec and shoulder injury. Coincidentally, my old bench grip happens to be just under 1.5x my biacromial width and it looks like I’m 95% as strong with it (despite not using it for a long time), I just need to work on lockout a bit it seems because that’s where it slows down. In your case it could be something totally different.


This has me thinking, what can you really do to avoid pec tears? Other that benching with proper technique (scapulas retracted) and a non-extreme grip width, there doesn’t seem to be much. Looking into pec tears, one thing that I read is that (supposedly) one of the most common causes of pec tears is heavy benching while not fully recovered from the previous bench session. But there are lots of lifters who bench 3-4 times a week (anyone working with Sheiko or RTS or using their programs) and I don’t hear about them blowing out their pecs on a regular basis. I imagine that attempting heavy lifts in a fatigued state would be a bad idea, like heavy singles or working up to a max at the end of a high volume bench workout.


Pec tears are caused from flaring the elbows out too soon. Seriously - read Dave Tates setup info. Worth its weight in gold. REgarding my CG issue, my forearms are longer than my upper arms so when I close grip and try to touch the chest my elbow goes too deep and puts pressure on the shoulder joint. Now I do close grips as spoto presses, stopping an inch or two off the chest. I do dips to work the tretched position. They don’t hurt - go figure.

Also, you need to lower the bar slowly to avoid too much stretch reflex. The tears usually occur after the touch on the initial press motion. You’re trying to push up when the weight is still moving downwards - increases the weight due to having to increase inetrtia.


I read and watched pretty much everything I could find by Dave Tate a few years ago when I decided I wanted to get into powerlifting, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to check it out again. One thing though, a lot of people (Greg Nuckols) say that tucking the elbows more than slightly is only good for equipped benching, Nuckols says that keeping the forearm vertical when you touch your chest will put you in the strongest position. I started doing that a few months ago and my bench is still plateaued, so maybe there’s not much too it. It seems like I’m stronger off the chest with a slightly closer grip, which has my forearms tilted slightly inwards, although the top half of the lift is harder.

I don’t lower the bar too fast at all, and this “injury” occurred when doing Spoto presses so I don’t even know what to think. Bench was my best lift for a while but lately it’s starting to piss me off, no gains for months is bad enough but now I’m trying to balance getting stronger with preventing injuries. Hey, I could always switch to strengthlifting!


Forgot to mention, Nuckols also has a pec tear. Coincidence?


Not to piss on Greg but the strongest position is the one which allows YOU to move the most weight. Sometimes takes years to find it.

IMO for raw benching the key is shoulders. The shoulders connect the arm to the body (the upper body equivalent of the hip). A loooong time ago speaking to an old timer i complained about stubborn bench press. He asked me how much I could press. When he heard that my bench was 280 and my press was 115 he said that my bench was shit cause my press was shit. So I started pressing big time. When my press hit 240, I doubled 350 raw at 205.

Press + Dips (heavy) = bench. Study oldtimers (Hennessy, Casey, Hepburn, Kaz) and youll find they loved presses and dips.


Speculation/Possible B.S. on Pec Minor

The pec minor helps stabilize/support your shoulders/scapula.

Wide Grip Bench makes it more difficult to use or engage your back.

Pausing at the bottom (Spoto Style) really challenges your shoulder stability and position.

Maybe you got a little out of position at the bottom, your back/arch/set up wasn’t exactly right, and your pec minor was strained/cramped fighting to keep you in place.

Regarding close grip bench.
Greg Nuckols looks to keep the bar “high” the elobows “out” and finish with the bar above the shoulder.

If you are going to bench closer, with the elbows tucked, the bar will touch lower on the chest. To keep the elbows in and use the tris, you drive straight up, keeping the bar “low” and push yourself away. Or kinda “push the bar towards your feet.”