T Nation

Shoulder Pain When Benching


I get a pain in the shoulders when i bench, workout with about 200 pounds. The pain seems to be at the joint. Have never dislocated anyhing, but am I at risk?


Yes, you are at risk. Cressey published 2 artcles last week that you should read (and heed) ASAP.




If you use a wide grip, change to a narrow grip. Your triceps will be more involved, but it will be easier on your shoulders.

Also, changing to DBs for a while is an excellent idea, as is working your external rotators and pulling musculature.

Read a few articles on this site and you'll have soooo much info to use, it's almost too much, but basically most shoulder pain is caused by a muscular imbalance around the joint caused by overuse of one direction, usually horizontal pushing. This is caused by too much benching at the expense of rowing movements.

However this is only 1 possible cause.


Unless you're training for a powerlifting meeet or a "bench test" I'd stick to dumbells, dips or any of a host of full range movements that aren't going to wreck your shoulders. If your dead set on answering the question "what are you benching?" read and practice as much as possible.


If you have long arms and more of a shallow chest you might not be built for performing the barbell bench press.

There are other safer wasys to build your chest.


After several weeks of heavy BB Benching I start to get the same pain you speak of. Cycle in some DB Bench and really work some external rotations with good form. Make sure you row as often as you bench, if not more because you are probably already unbalanced (as most lifters are).

Read Cressey's two recent articles:



and check out this Cosgrove/Waterbury article:


Make sure you check out the self-diagnostic test, it really puts your shoulder function into perspective.


I find that if you follow some of Cressey's tips and work in some pushup variations like swissball pushups, work ancillary muscles in the rotator cuff and scapulae.


Could you do the supine 1-arm dumbbell protraction from Shoulder Savers: Part I
by Eric Cressey with a barbell instead of 1-2 dumbells?
And the bench, would simply lowering the elbows diffrently (Powerlifting-style, elbows tucked) help?


make sure you stretch out your pecs and lats. for stretching the pecs, make sure its done with a straight arm and palms rotated upwards. if the pain persists you might have to stop benching for a while and get some ART done. dont do dumbell bench in this time either. the problem is that when doin horizontal pushing the scapular contraction/retraction is limited. pushups and dips could be ok. now if your shoulder starts hurting when doing dips, front squats, overhead pressing, cleans, etc. id say stop benching immediately and go see a physio therapist, but for the love of god see someone who lifts weights. Someone who also lifts (an olympic lifter would be best) will understand your need to not completely stop lifting and give you VERY good advice to prevent it from happening again. worked for me :wink:.

one more thing, when doing standing military press make sure your head pushes through your arms at the top. so basicalyy you want to squeeze your shoulder blades together and push your head through almost like a chicken or somethin. this will allow your traps to stabilize the weight overhead, taking the stress of the anterior delts and the joint. hope all this helps, just taking it from my own personal experience, which was very similar to yours. o, and it goes without saying that you need to rotator work :wink:.


This is(are?) the "lats"?: http://www.exrx.net/Muscles/LatissimusDorsi.html
I have never done front squats, how much should a normal load be, with backsquat about 100-130kg.


I had really bad left shoulder pain from benching a while back for about 6-8 months. Never affected my lifting but it hurt like hell when I racked the weight.

Strangely it just went away and I've been fine for a year or so.


I used to think this was complete crap. And then it happened to me.

I'm gonna focus on DBs for a while, then slowly come back to the bar with a modified technique. I use to go elbows wide, directly down to my middle/upper chest. It's a good movement... if your shoulders can take it.

Sometimes you can only learn something by seeing it for yourself.


I am working my out of shoulder pain while benching. When I first got the pain, I looked everywhere on T-Nation and other sites for answers. What helped the most was hearing recommendations from Cressey and Co., and from various posters, who described their experience. So that's what I'm going to do for anyone who comes after.

I noticed some discomfort in my left shoulder while bench pressing, especially at the bottom of the lift. I forget the location, but it wasn't in back or way out on the side of the shoulder. I also had slight pain doing pull-ups or even standing DB bicep curls, but none on overhead DB presses.
At first it was just during lifting, then I noticed some aching during the first day of recovery. I ignored it until I noticed I wasn't lifting as well. Then I analyzed.

I've had to use a bench press machine for the past year, and I wondered if the path of the machine's lift wasn't designed for me. I still don't know about this.

I read Cressey's articles about balance and often-weak shoulder muscles and correct bench pressing. I had always read to balance back and chest, and I interpreted that as lats and delts balanced with pecs. So I'd do 8-10 sets of chest per week, and balance that with 8-10 sets of either pull-ups or some rows, whichever I felt like doing. Oops. Not only do lats not balance chest, but they actually have a similar function as pecs, such that you should balance lat work with even more rows! Or somethign like that. Anyway, I also hadn't been using a good, strong rowing motion for a year (using mostly one-arm cable rows), and I wondered if this exarcerbated the imbalance. Anyway, I had the imbalance for sure, and now I had shoulder pain. What to do?

I cut chest training from 8-10 sets per week to 4 sets of lighter loads performed shallowly (and done with correct form, as mentioned later). I increased from 2-3 sets of rows per week to 10 sets. I cut pull-ups from 6-8 sets to 4. Once the shoulder felt better, I could find a true balance, but for now, I needed to favor the back.

Also for balance I tried some prone cobras and prone trap raises, and I included (usually rope) rows to the neck.

Another thing I did here was to get into doing back work. I didn't want to be forcing myself to do back work while hardly working chest, as I've always favored chest. I worried that that mindset would hold me back, so I took pictures of my back and thought about what a broad back implied. It worked pretty well, as I really got into it more, and I could better imagine which muscles were supposed to be doing the pulling, as I "pulled through the elbows".

For new shoulder work:
I cut overhead presses. I added rear delt flys, but they hurt even with 3 pounds, so I did them a way that didn't hurt. I did Cuban presses, but they hurt, so I stopped. I did external rotations: lowish cable and the one where you sit with one foot up on a bench and your elbow screwed into your knee. I did some scap push-ups.

I also did more deadlifts.

Then I learned how to bench press "correctly", i.e., more like powerlifters. There are articles on T-Nation for this, with flash videos demonstrating good / bad. Basically, pull your shoulders back and down, push out your chest, arch your back (these three happen together naturally), and keep your elbows tucked. This alone removed most pain during the motion, although not in recovery.

Without any evidence for which changes helped, I cannot help guessing. I feel like heavy rows pulling through the elbows helped. And deadlifts. Both make me feel like my body is stretching out its kinks, down to the most obscure, weakest muscles. Also the ExtRots felt good (but they made my shoulder ache in recovery, which at first I confused with the bad shoulder pain, but was just a normal post-workout ache on a newly-used muscle).