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Shoulder Pain While Flat Benching


After a month of Meltdown Training, I decided to get back to some heavier lifting. To my surprise, when I tried benching, I felt a sharp, very localized pain at the top of my left shoulder joint.

I pressed ahead with a Waterbury 10x3 workout and found the pain lessened as I went on. If I tighten the shoulder prior to lift, that seems to help to. As does a narrower grip and lowering the bar to just below my pecs.

But it's frustrating because it's really limiting the amount of weight I can lift.

I know I'm courting trouble if I don't address this. It's been 3 bench sessions now and the pain is still very present. (DB benches are even worse. And they used to be my favorites.)

What to do?

My flexibility is not great. Okay, it sucks. But I'm not sure that's the issue. Is it time to find a Doctor? Rotator cuff work? Increase flexibility? If so, what specific programs do those who've experienced similar pain recommend?



Have you tried a thumb less grip or possibly dips instead of flat bench?


My shoulder used to bother me when I did flat bench as well. I took a few weeks off from flat bench and did incline (had to use a lighter weight so it did not put as much strain on the joint) and decline (recruits less shoulder) which did not bother my shoulder nearly as much. Also, when I went back to flat benching I started using a closer grip, I suspect the wide grip I was using caused the aggravation to my shoulder. I can now bench pain free using the slightly narrower grip.


I had a similar problem and found that rotator cuff work, stretching, and 2-board presses rather than flat bench for a period of time helped me.


What are 2 board presses ?


2 Board Presses are simply having (2) 2X6's on top of each other placed on your chest, then bringing the bar down to this point, touching briefly and then exploding up.


Try doing more rowing work, generally staying inside 1.5 times thw eidth of your shoulder for presses and "tucking" your elbows when you press.


Anything special about the boards? Or can you get the same effect in a rack?


I've been able to address shoulder pain issues by doing pec stretches and external rotator cuff work 2-3 times a week , on "off" days.

I bought the "Shoulder Horn" and believe it's a great piece of equipment. It's very simple, but effective. It's a piece of aluminum tubing covered in foam and bent in such a way as to keep the arms in perfect biomechanical position for rotator cuff work. The instructions also give a simple routine incorporating the Shoulder Horn and pec stretches.

I consider such a preventitive routine essential for longevity in lifting.

Good luck,



-No benching, overhead pressing, or pullups/pulldowns for two weeks.

-Lots of rows.

-Lots of external rotations.

-Stretch the pecs, lats, anterior delts, upper traps, and levator scapulae.

-Get ART.

-Ice a bunch.

-Avoid overhead activity in your daily life as much as possible.

-Gradually reintroduce low cable crossovers, followed by decline DB and DB floor presses, then board presses, decline presses, floor presses, and finally regular flat bench presses.

-For the rest of eternity, do more rowing volume than pressing. Do more external rotations, too.


My workout partner had shoulder problems for a long time. He got a shoulder horn and started doing rotator cuff excercises and after a couple months the shoulder pain went away entirely.


Be very careful, as it sounds like a rotator cuff problem. I have a crappy one, and overuse, or exercises such as upright rows, will aggravate the hell out of it. Follow Cressey's advice to "T", please, because if you tear it, you will never forgive yourself.


Thanks so much for the detailed advice. I researched ART and found a couple of great articles, but if there's anything specific you're recommend, let me know.

As for rows, BB rows hurt my elbows (yes, I'm having some elbow issues also, but they don't bother me on the bench.) Are DB Rows an acceptable substitute? Or should I fix the elbows first and go from there? (They mostly bother me on weighted pull/chin ups and BB rows and kill me on Upright rows.)


Might be. Fortunately, upright rows hurt my elbows so much I can't do enough weight with them to tear my rotator cuff... yet.

But "what the hell is wrong with my elbows" is another thread, I think.


I have a similar issue, a sensitive rotator cuff from an injury ~10 years ago. It only pops up when I do barbell presses in various forms, except declines. When it does, I stop barbell-pressing immediately and switch to dumbbells and dips instead for the time being, and stay away from barbell-pressing or any type of overhead pressing movement for at least a month or two. It seems to work well.


I feel your pain. Ive had issues with both of my shoulders for years and havent done jack about them. Now, theyre a mess. I can perform dips pain free and can decline barbell bench 240 for reps, but if I even try a warmup set of flat bench presses, ill cry like an infant. Every once in a while, ill try them again hoping something has changed, but no luck. I might have to invest in one of those shoulder horns. Ive been reading about them for years, but have yet to try one. Anyway, good luck.


I do dumbbell presses as well for the same reason. Also when I do dips I do them with my hand flat like it was on the floor and I rotate my hand as I press.