Pec Injury, Help GREATLY Appreciated

I have read this forum and I’m impressed by the people who post on here and the information provided, hopefully you guys can help me out, here’s my story:

3 years ago this month I was benching 365 and on the 8th rep, felt a sharp pain in the right side of my chest. No pop, no blood, bruising, or swelling. I stopped immediately, took a week off, and everything was fine returning the week after that.

A few weeks later in the month of August, I did the same thing to the OTHER (left) side of my chest. I did the same thing, took a week off, came back, things were fine, and did it again to that same side of my chest. It was at that time I took off from any chest completely for a month, which due to some other circumstances I had to stop working out to handle some issues, and all together from October of 2008 to March of 2009, I did nothing for my chest (one would figure 5 months would be ample time to heal).

I started back with light dumbbells, no problem there. Went back to benching (this is about April-May 2009) and was able to bench 350 no problem. I went easy at everything and sure enough, with only 275, I did the same thing to the left side of my chest again. At this point I went to the doctor. He felt that all the ligaments were intact and after viewing results from an MRI, said that he could tell there was a previous injury there that had healed up, and that there was a lot of scar tissue built up in the area. I did dumbbells off and on and eventually went to doing solely chest machines. No real problem from it. Got back to doing dumbbells and I did it again.

I started doing floor presses as a completely substitute because it limited my ROM and everything I read said it would benefit me, and I never had a problem with them. After wanting to do something different, I came across the 6-week hard trainer Dorian Yates program on here where the main lift for chest was the DECLINE bench because it was lighter on your ligaments and caused less stress. Everything felt great until a few weeks ago I felt a small pull in my RIGHT side of my chest (the first time it hurt in 3 years). So I switched back to floor presses and sure enough the pain wasn’t as bad, but it was still there.

This has been going on for three whole years and I am starting to get very depressed because after going to the doctor and hearing what he told me, it seems there is nothing I can do… There has never been ANY nasty bruising that are associated with a pec tear not the slightest bit, I just am tired of not knowing what is going on. I wouldn’t feel complete without getting a whole chest workout in but I can’t bench, do inclines, any flys or cables and it sucks… I’d love to hear some opinions from people on here, so please, let me know what you think the deal is… because lord knows I can’t even feel good about myself anymore because of this.

Anyone? Please…

you show me a guy who tears or injures his pec and i’ll show you a guy who didn’t warm up properly. plus, on the 8th rep, you hurt your pec? that doesn’t seem enough load to do damage. normally powerlifters tear their pecs doing heavy singles or doubles or triples. not sets of 8-10. your form has to be off. or your not warming up properly or stretching in between warm up sets.

What does your dynamic warm up look like?

edit: the vampire beat me!

Unfortunately, once you tear a pec there is a tendency to do it again in most people. (I fully ruptured my pec major tendon and had surgery to repair it about 6 months ago by the way, so I feel your pain.) That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to quit barbell benching for good but you need to be a bit more cautious with training (that means be smart, not be scared).

I’m not convinced that the warm up was the issue, though it is possible. It is usually an issue of poor technique, not being fully recovered from a previous work out, or a genetic issue related to how your shoulder is structured and how your pec tendon attaches to your arm or left/right imbalances. I think you need to ask yourself how important barbell benching is for you. If it is extremely important then you need to take a serious look at your technique and make it flawless. Dave Tate has some great posts/articles over at I would caution that if you bench raw you should use the technique suggested by Coach Ripp and Christian Thib, as opposed to the Westside style.

Rehabbing a pec is very similar to rehabbing a shoulder injury and there is a great article by Dr. David Ryan DC that you can find here: The only place where I disagree with Dr. Ryan is on speed training. I think people who aren’t powerlifters should make sure the turnaround at the beginning and ending of a rep is slow and smooth. You can still be plenty fast enough without speed training and the research I have read is mixed on how well it truly strengthens tendons. I never lift with speed and aside from pro boxers in low weight classes, I don’t have many rivals in the hand speed department and I’m 30 plus. I would also suggest getting some ART massages done and some ultrasound heating on the pec once in a while to manage the scar tissue and break up any adhesions.

I’m not a doctor but it doesn’t sound like you have had any serious tears yet, which is very good news for the future of your strength training, so keep your head up. Even if you can’t get the pec in order, being a pressing, squatting, and deadlifting king is still pretty f’ing bad a$$.

To Vampire:

My warm ups were worth-while per se. I would always start out doing two sets of 12 with a 5lbs doing dumbbell exercises to warm up my rotator cuffs for each arm. I would then bench the bar 20 times, then 10 times. Put 135 on and do it for 10, then 5. Go up to 185 do it 10 times, then 225 10 times and that was my warm up. At the time I first hurt my pec, my max bench was 465 no shirt no nothing. Now if I put 315 and begin to rep regularly I usually aggravate that injury.


Thanks for the post, it was very informative… I do actually suffer from a mild case of scoliosis which causes one shoulder to sit up higher than the other, so I don’t know if that can attribute to the cause. I’m past the point of “I need to bench” it just sucks that I can’t anymore… but dumbbells can aggravate the injury as well. Thankfully (as you said) I haven’t had a serious tear and I’m just scared that it will happen sooner or later, as a lot of chest exercises don’t feel good at all (flys and cable crossovers hurt like hell). I also can feel it if I’m doing shrugs and sometimes while doing lat pull downs oddly enough.

I would say therapy,therapy, therapy. My left hamstring was in a simmilar state to your pec a couple of years ago. It was COVERED in scar tissue. So I got to work and massaged the shit out of it by rolling around on a shot putt with all of my body off the ground (just supporting myself with my hands). After 5 days of consistent work I was amazed at the improvement. Now I have no hamstring trouble and still perform this routine everyday. You have to massage as hard as you can and when you find a tender spot, hold it there for 30 seconds.
I would suggest that you use a lacrose ball or something simmilar, lye on your stomach and roll the ball between your chest and the ground as hard as you can stand. The key here is consistency. You have to do it everyday without fail to get an improvement.
You can also perform self ART quite easily on your pec muscle. ART is simply applying pressure to a muscle when it is in its shortened state and then maintaining that pressure while the muscle is lengthened. To do this with your pec, bring your arm in across the body, apply pressure with your finger to a tender area on the pec and then extend the arm out away from your body and stretch your pec as much as you can, all while keeping hard pressure on the tender area.