T Nation

Shoulder Pain

Here’s one for those of you who are good at diagnosing injuries. Why would flat bench and dips cause a significant amount of shoulder pain (both sides to a greater or lesser degree) but incline is painless? Is this just wear and tear from overuse in one plane of motion or do I have a muscle imbalance that I need to correct, and if so how?


there’s more shoulder rotation doing flat benches and declines then there is doing incline and shoulder presses. i had the same thing. strengthen your rotator cuffs and get some art. ice and anti inflamatories help too.

It’s not a muscle imbalance problem. I have the same deal - I can incline and decline press no problem, but flat bench and dips kill my shoulders - and my pulling muscles are strong compared to my pushing muscles. I think it has to do with the biceps tendon where it crosses the shoulder joint and/or strain being put on the anterior part of the shoulder capsule. Anyone care to enlighten us gimps further?

Sorry, I can’t explain it, but I too have a similar problem. I no longer bench due to my shoulders rotating, even with dumbbells. I can, however, do military press, clean and jerk, and snatch. I have long arms, good pulling power, strong biceps and lats, but no benching anymore for me…

That’d be nice to learn. I get shoulder pain when doing flat and incline bench, and dips also. Decline benches are a breeze for some reason.

To decrease the amount of shoulder rotation during the bench you should use a Westside-esque set-up on the bench.

  1. Bench straight up, no J-lift.
  2. Focus on “pulling bar apart”.

Try to bench with these recommendations and see if it helps.

I had the same problem about 4 months ago.
I could do all sorts of Incline presses but
not dips on the bar with or without weights.
It all stemmed from trying to many reps on my
dips. I maxed out at about 25, with my bodyweight of 190 lbs. Then, I tried to go higher and my delts got real sore. So, I laid
off this the dips for over a month and continued with incline and bench presses.
Then, when I could sense the soreness had gone
started gradually on the dips. 5, or less at
a time. I am now doing one set of about 30 dips
with no weights. I do not have any soreness
but, I think, I will skip the addition of any
weights for now. Incidently, the delt machines
at the gym I go to are of real help. The ones
you sit down on and have two padded lifts one
on each side with a rack in the middle. I started with 30 lbs and now do about 100.
The main benefit has been definition and the
increased size of my delts.

I think tony may have some useful advice in regard to bench form.
Also, it may be necessary to have some downtime to allow the shoulder to heal before you start back into these exercises.
If you do take some time off you may want to consider easing into the amount of weight you do especially while working on new form.

re: Tony’s advice to use Westside technique. I tried this and found that I had no shoulder rotation when using 50-60% loads at fast speeds, but as the weights got heavier and my pressing slower, shoulder rotation inevitably occurred despite efforts to “stay tight…”

I can’t bench heavy either, but can overhead press anything I want. I got it looked at and it was my AC joint causing the problem. Rest is about the only thing you can do besides surgery.

I have always been a little unclear as to what is meant by the term “shoulder rotation.” I have always thought it referred to the degree to which the upper arms extended away from the body. Quite obviously I don’t understand. I used to be more of a wide grip/arms flared bencher, until I read some of Dave Tate’s articles. Now, I bench with a narrower grip with my elbows tucked in, but this hasn’t had any impact on the degree of pain I’m experiencing, and if anything, has reduced my strength (although that might just be the pain). I’m probably going to piss a lot of people off when I say this but I think a lot of the West Side powerlifting tricks only apply to barrel chested men with very short arms packed into bench shirts and have very limited applications for recreational bodybuilders or athletes in other sports besides powerlifting. Of course this is no secret, since I think Tate said something like this in one of his articles. Although, maybe they’re right and I’m still doing something incorrectly, causing my shoulders to be out of position. I don’t know what it could be though, my external rotators aren’t weak.

Maybe I'll try and lay off the flat bench for a while and see if the inflamation resolves, but meantime if anyone can define "shoulder rotation" for me and illustrate how to prevent it I'd be grateful.

i am amazed at people’s misconceptions about powerlifting. (1) straight line pressing causes less shoulder rotation that j pressing. if you shoulders are wrecked, its still going to hurt. shoulder rotation is simply how much your shoulder rotates. (2) you bench with a narrower grip to work your tricep more. when you compete, you bench as wide as you can. just about everyone is weaker when they close grip compared to a wider grip. (3) powerlifting workouts, and west side style workouts do work for people with long arms and small chests. why wouldn’t they?

Pete, we all have more or less anatomical advantage when it comes to benching, squatting, deadlifting, and the Olympic lifts. The shorter the limb, the less distance the bar has to travel. This doesn’t mean that the bench press is inherently unsafe for some people, although Paul Chek’s article “Big Bench, Bad Shoulders,” makes a case for full range benches as detrimental to shoulder integrity…

Certainly people have certain misconceptions about powerlifting.
However, if excessive shoulder rotation is what is causing someone pain then straight-line pressing will help this.
You certainly use a wide grip in competition to decrease the distance the bar must be moved. A close grip will not necessarily lead to less shoulder rotation, but “pulling the bar apart” will force you to tuck your elbows which will lead to less shoulder rotation.
Westside and powerlifting workout will work for everyone as long as they focus on a person’s weaknesses.

I used to have a similar problem because I have such a small frame. It was suggested to me to warm up my rotator cuff before lifting. I now do this before any upper body workout and Im ok now. Take a really light dumbell and put your arm straight out(like an airplane). Now bending your elbow bring it into your pec. This is the starting position. Swing the dumbell in a circular motion backward almost, you should almost feel the back of the shoulder contracting. I do 3 sets of 10 with each arm with like 10 pd weights.

of course short limbed people have mechanical advantages in the powerlifting. but it is absurd to say "I’m probably going to piss a lot of people off when I say this but I think a lot of the West Side powerlifting tricks only apply to barrel chested men with very short arms packed into bench shirts and have very limited applications for recreational bodybuilders or athletes in other sports besides powerlifting. " louie simmons has been training atheletes such as football players for years using his methods. and they all get stronger. don’t tell me that they all had barrel chests, short arms, and wore bench shirts on the football field.