T Nation

Rotator Cuffs: Decline Bench vs. Flat

For the pro’s, would you guys say that decline bench is safer on your rotator cuffs than flat. I am talking about repping 365lbs with a 405 1RM. Are most pushing more on decline vs. flat, and is pec development superior with one over the other?

My thoughts (take 'em, leave 'em, argue with 'em makes no difference to me)

-Flat bench is responsible for more destroyed shoulders than any other exercise

-No one even whines about their shoulders after decline, in fact I would always do just decline when my shoulders used to act up.

-You can move more weight on decline, but that’s not always relevant to muscle stimulation in the pecs

-Some studies show more mid chest fiber recruitment from low decline work than flat work

-Due to the angle, and limited ROM, decline can place less stress on your rotator (but some people have a difficult time unracking the weight by themselves)

S

^^ Um, Stu, I love 'ya to pieces, but… why are you here right now? Don’t you have a busy weekend? :wink: All the best to you guys. Enjoy the day tomorrow.

On topic, some basics for shoulder health: Either adjust your grip and tuck the elbows when flat benching, switch to dumbbells, or try a slight decline.

If you do have pre-existing shoulder health issues, check out the tips in the Shoulder Savers series:


(Part 1 talks a bit specifically about the bench press.)

I’d be interested to find out other people’s opinion as well. I flat bench but I use a pretty narrow grip, less wide my grip is, the more stability I feel I have in my shoulders.

I was considering adding these decline’s again but more as assistance workout instead of doing dips, not really for 1RM.

@Mighty Stu I always thought it was just me that had trouble unracking the barbell during decline! But would you say that it’s destroyed more shoulders because it’s the #1 go to exercises all beginners try to max out on first with horrible form? Or because of the exercise in itself, even WITH proper form?

[quote]jldume wrote:
But would you say that it’s destroyed more shoulders because it’s the #1 go to exercises all beginners try to max out on first with horrible form? Or because of the exercise in itself, even WITH proper form?[/quote]

I think it’s more the former. So many people put so much energy and effort into flat benching when they start out…for many, that’s as far as they’ll ever take “working out”, along with some curls maybe. So should it be any surprise when lots of people get hurt by it? My personally, I adopted decent benching form early on, and it’s only gotten better with time, and I’ve never really had bench bug my shoulders. FWIW.

I have no shoulder issues at all, just want to keep it that way. In fact, my shoulders never hurt since I started declining 8 months ago. My chest and lats have grown tremendously from pushing descent weight on decline with my slingshot. Before I was static on growth on the flat, so I moved over to decline and absolutely love it.

I’m small and weak, so take that for what it’s worth.

But I know slight Decline and slight inclines are suppose to work the chest better. Slight incline always worker, but standard Decline BB Benches always felt horrible for me, and using DB’s for a bench at a slight decline was a real pain to get into position for.

I have really long arms as well with broad shoulders, along with pectus excavatum (a chest deformity) so chest work early on was a pain. I found that if I Benched with a legit, solid arch (PL style), and did it correctly, that not only did it take the shoulders out of the equation, but naturally made the ‘Flat’ Bench the slight decline movement that I was looking for. As result, I get a huge chest pump from Flat Bench now as long as I get tight and execute it with a solid arch, legs tucked, and medium grip (enough to get a stretch, but not enough blow out my rotator cuff or so narrow it’s all triceps).

I guess that small novel is just to say, before ditching any movement, especially a ‘big’ one like flat bench, I’d at least make sure I’ve given it a fair shot, ya know? Like I said, you’re bigger and stronger then men, but I know arching for Flat Bench gives me the ‘decline’ angle I wanted that now actually hits my chest.

@hungry4more Yeah, I agree with you. Proper form is the name of the game in this lifestyle.

@cutt I guess if you aren’t currently or haven’t had any shoulder problems, then definitely keep doing them heavy.

@Spidey22 The important thing is that you found a way to make it work for you pain free, but yeah I don’t know of anyone with that chest deformity, glad to see you din’t give up after the bad initial workouts din’t go so great.

I know they won’t substitute for weighted dips, but I’d rather keep my shoulder pain free, I’ll replace them with decline benching and hopefully it works for me in the long run.

[quote]jldume wrote:
@hungry4more Yeah, I agree with you. Proper form is the name of the game in this lifestyle.

[/quote]

The thing many people seem to forget is that we are doing these same movements week after week, year after year, constantly trying to get stronger at them, giving our all. With that in mind, it’s not hard at all to see why doing this while using bad form every time can lead to injury quickly with any exercise. It’s a lot of stress on your body…that’s the whole point. Just make sure you’re stressing it the RIGHT way.