Saw a Guy Tear His Pec Benching Yesterday

I am 40+ with over 20 years of serious training. I am pleased to report that after all these years I just hit a PB in the bench press and have really been making some solid gains after years of stagnation. Then reality hit…a guy I train with blew out his pec attempting a heavy triple.

I have never been injured but after seeing the injury and reading that Tate suggests dumping the bench for guys over 40, it got me thinking. I was trying to find some research to determine what (if any) exercises cause the most pec tears. I was thinking about switching to dumbbells but it seems the additional stretch might actually cause more pec tears than a bbell bench. Do you have any information about which exercises are “generally” safer but can still be incorporated into “heavy” chest day where I focus on compound movements?


I think Wendler commented on this in an article and said the only guys he saw tear a pec benching were using a wide grip, and advised to switch to a closer-grip to save your pecs and shoulders.

[quote]kjmont wrote:
I think Wendler commented on this in an article and said the only guys he saw tear a pec benching were using a wide grip, and advised to switch to a closer-grip to save your pecs and shoulders.[/quote]

X2 kj

I most recently switched my grips to closer. I now bench at 12-14 inches, shoulder and push press same grip. (38 yrs old)
When I made the switch, I had to drop the weight on bench by about 50lbs. from normal grip (ring fingers on power ring) but my 12" close grip bench is now 5lbs better than my standard bench ever was and steadily improving. In fact, just hit a new PR Wednesday. It can be done and you will save your pecs.

I am not CT, but I had been suffering from partial pec tear, pull/strain last year so I learned a lot from my experience. If you want to go HEAVY for horizontal press movement, floor press with close grip (with or without bands) is the way to go IMO. In fact, it was my staple last year. You can not stretch the pec so the chance of the injury would be reduced but still get great pec mean/peak pec activation which was cleared by Bret contreras experiment. If you want to avoid the kind of injury, I think you should be carefull with these exercises.

Speed benching
Benching with constant tension
Plyo push up, Ballistic benching etc… (explosive movement)
Benching with bands
Board press (especially, board press against bands is HORRIBLE! even close grip)
All kinds of wide grip benching and OH pressing (but if you go light enough, say 12RM or lower weight, I think it is OK… light weight sucks for strength/size though)
Incline barbell bench press (unless you always go close grip)
All kinds of DB fly (unless you go light enough and limit ROM)
Heavy DB benching (when you set up)
Heavy dips

and close grip is exactly safer but it is not a guarantee. In fact I pulled pec when I close-grip benching. Elbows in stlye and lowering the bar to belly (lower chest) like power lifter is the best for safety purpose. I believe elbows out style + close grip + lowering the bar to chest (+ grinding out reps) = GREATER CHANCE OF PEC INJURY.

In addition, if you are doing much volume of other pressing exercise or SQUAT, (yes SQUAT!) you should cut/check your horizontal press movement exercise volume. Because if you squat heavy, hard, deep (ATG) enough, your pec and triceps would be activated enough. Many people don’t know how heavy squatting is great for upper body pushing muscle. Right now, I am squatting 5-6 times a week like olympic lifter and almost no heavy barbell benching and only doing little assistance work but my pec and triceps still bigger than from bodybuilding isolation kind of work with massive effort/time. I have found that this whole body routine is good for someone who look for “no heavy benching but bigger chest”

a) Back squat
(work up to daily max, then,) LOTS of sets of 2-3reps with 80-85%of the max (max force, autoregulation etc… )
b,c) Other work whatever you like
d) 1 Pec exercise from below list repetitive work a few sets of 10-15reps it is just kinda blood flow purpose
Push up (with bodyweight only or with bands)
Dips with bodyweight
DB benching (incline, flat, decline)
Cable fly and any variation
Guillotine press with very light weight
e-) Other work whatever you like for little muscle

Increasing squat volume/frequency/intensity + little repetitive work for chest after other work (2-3times a week) is the best JMO.
CT will give you better advise but I just wanted to share my bitter experience lol…

Louie Simmons says to avoid pec tears/shoulder injury, press straight up and/or slightly towards your feet, but never press towards your face as this can cause a lot of your pecs/delts to take over.

Dante of the DC training method doesn’t recommend training the bench press using his methods, as a pec tear is not if but when with the bench press…

i’m just curious was your friend benching with his elbows flared out or tucked in?

Sorry I didnt respond earlier. My friend does NOT bench with ideal powerlifting form. He was using the standard weekend warrior gym guy bench press style. I would like to think that I use form that would be less likely to tear a pec (med grip, elbows tucked, ass/feet locked in place, back arched) because I used to compete in PL.

BUT…all that being said, I am now 40+ and don’t have any plans to compete again so seeing the injury made me think that the reward (hoisting big weights in the BP) does not outweigh the risk (injury). Then I read Tate’s article and it re-affirmed dumping the BP.

My question for C.T. was, is there any research to suggest DB bench or incline bb press are LESS likely to cause an injury than a standard barbell bp? Because if they are just as likely to cause a pec tear I might as well keep on benching I suppose.