T Nation

Torn Pec And How To Bench?


I'm an intermediate lifter (about 8 months serious--2 years prior to that on and off, mostly off, doing inefficient workouts)
32 years old. 6' 2" 185 lbs. Can bench 220, DL 350 and do about 13 pull-ups.

Been doing the Waterbury Method for the past few weeks. Think I tore my left pec about 2 weeks ago while doing 10X3 BP. Was in the 9th set but I finished the entire workout. Continued doing workout as written sans the chest exercises. Felt better yesterday so tried to do BP. I used a much closer grip--about shoulder width--and lowered the barbell to the bottom of pecs--lower on chest than usual. Almost a cross between regular bench and close hand bench. Did fine until 7th set--tried to widen the grip and lower to mid-pec. RIP. I could actually hear it completely tear. It hurt but I was more angry at myself for being stupid--pushing too soon and not allowing adequate time to recover.

A few questions:
(1) I can still workout as long as the injured area doesn't hurt correct? Assuming I won't do chest for a while---then will start back in slowly
(2) What is the 'proper' hand and bar position (where is it lowered to) when benching? This might seem like a newbie question but I've seen lots of different advice on this
(3) What actually happens when a muscle 'tears'?
(4) Best way to rehab muscle tear and how long will it take?



1 No!

2 It depends on the person.

3 It actually tears somewhere.

4 Who knows, is it black and blue, is it swollen or knotted, you need to go see a Doctor ASAP!!! Request an MRI as well.

  1. Yes. You can do legs or any exercise that doesn't affect the injured area. If you did in fact tear a muscle, a good solid week of doing nothing would help.

  2. What ever is comfortable for you.

  3. Pretty self explanatory. The place it usually tears is where is connects to a tendon, (I think).

  4. I agree that you need to get in and see a doctor immediately.

One note is I highly doubt you tore it. If you did, the pain, bruising, and immobility would have caused you to go straight to a doctor rather than this site, make sense? You could have just aggrevated it though...


I had a similar experience about a year ago, I tore the upper half of my right pec while bencing. I echo all of what Gator just said, DO NOT try to push through it, instead get to a doc, get an MRI, and find out what's going on. My pec never really turned black and blue or had any outward signs, except that it looked a little misshapen in the mirror. As far as rehab goes, I'm not sure what they'll say to you but the doc I talked to said that as a lifter, I'd pretty much take care of rehabing myself, so I just worked myself back into benching very very slowly (benching the bar is a kick in the nuts, but you do what you gotta do). For the time being, I'd say stop lifting altogether until you have a diagnosis, because your pecs act as secondary and stabilizing muscles in a lot of other movements. It sucks, but a few extra workouts isn't worth causing more damage.

Good luck.


I tore my pec completely. The entire right side of my body turned blue, green, red, you name it, from my elbow to my pelvis.

It does not heal itself.

In fact, whether it can be surgically repaired depends on how close the tear is to the insertion point.

If it's not near the insertion point, you can't stitch it together--it's like trying to sew two pieces of Kleenex together.

Go to a doctor, fast. There's a very small window of opportunity.


All the video I've seen of impressive benchers show their elbows down next to their sides. I used to bench elbows out & hurt my shoulder. Keep your elbows in & focus more on the triceps than the pecs. Lower the bar to the bottom of your pecs. Read up on how powerlifter's benchpress.

Good luck with the recovery.


D'oh. Not the responses I had hoped for (but, alas, what I expected)

Will skip the gym and head to the Doctor instead. It's not discolored and the area of discomfort is very small--about an inch in from the armpit.

Will keep you updated.

Thanks to all for their comments.


Please, go to the doctor. My buddy did this in high school on Max-out day for football; tryed putting up 315 and ripped the pec on the way down.

His entire upper arm and pectoral region was black and blue the next day. Of course, the dumbass didn't go to the doctor quick enough, and so the muscle became taut where it was, and no surgery could fix it by then.

As I remember, he was never able to bench again with a barbell, and was forced to always use dumbells (I don't know what the difference was,but hey..)

Not too mention it looked damn creepy any time he would flex his chest, being as you could visibly see the rift in the middle of the muscle where it tore.


Went to the Doctor.
She didn't do much. No MRI.
Just said the muscle connecting pec and shoulder is strong and will get better--usually in a few weeks. Gave me some anti-inflammatories (Advil) and said keep it real easy for 2 weeks. Gave a referral to an Orthaepedist.

Hopefully will get better with rest


Damn bro,
I( hate it for you.Some times you got to mess up to learn.Hell a torn peck can happen at any time.Remember, the more you bench, the more you need to warm up.I myself like to put the blood in the muscle and then spend the resting intervall streatching it out.Don't let your muscles get cold and go for a heavy lift. You can get over the muscle tear but better be glad it's not a ligament(rotary cuff).

Don't forget your rear delts.They are essential for a good, strong bench.Good luck bro.



I tore the pectoralis major on my left side while doing incline. That was rough, as AD said black and blue, and it can't be put together if it's not from the insertion. I tore mine from the outside in, and it was really rough for the first six months to a year relearning how to life.

In that time frame I also had a reconstruction of my left shoulder, which didn't make things any easier on me. Take it easy for a while, and definitely go and visit with the ortho, and also make sure your PT knows what he/she's doing, as I had some set backs because my PT pushed too hard too soon, and I was a bit over eager to do as he said. Be patient and everything will work out just fine.

It's been about three years and I'm getting closer to 300, which I never thought I would see again, but it's all about how you train and learning technique over total weight lifted. At least it's been that way in my experiences. Good luck my friend.


I have torn my pec and I can assure you that if you finished your workout, then you did not tear yours. When you tear a muscle, it is pretty painful. It took me about 2 weeks before I could even OHP.

My guess is a strain. I have strained my pec many times and although painful, it can be trained around. You don't hear a tear when you strain a muscle.


I think you need to see another doctor. I also tore my pec, and while my entire arm turned purplish green from the shoulder to the elbow, it didn't really hurt (until surgery) but no one can tell you if you tore it without an MRI.

Was the doctor you saw a sports ortho or just a family practitioner?

The quality of your doctor can make the difference between ever being able to bench again.

Is there a University Medical Center near you? You need a second opinion from someone who treats athletes and fast, the window of opportunity to fix it is not that large.


You do not need to seek some Dr. who specializes in athletes here.
From what you described, you did not tear your pec.
I've seen several and there is no doubt that you know it when you tear it. Also, the discoloration is legendary. A true tear will cause massive 'bruising' coloration from the shoulder area sometimes all the way to the waist.

If you described your problem to your Dr. and they didn't even feel the need for an MRI after examination, rest assured that you need rest to fix your muscle strain.
Avoid anything that hurts until it no longer hurts.
If you feel uncomfortable with the diagnosis, seek a second opinion, but my non-professional opinion is you did nothing serious.


I agree.

Been there done that. I was blue from the top of my shoulders to my ass.

If you tore your pec you wouldn't have to ask that first question. The pain would be kicking that ass right now!

Sounds like a strain but what ever you do, don't be doing any upper body at all. If you do, you might tear it for sure, then you will be out months.

Go to the doctor to be safe bro.



No doubt if it's not a full tear it's a partial from the sounds of you discription. A partial is a full tear just waiting to happen. Keep in mind that the tendon that connects the pec major to the upper humorous bone is roughly 2 inches wide by 3 inches long. In reality, not a whole lot of matter to hold things together under a couple hundred pounds of weight.

Get the MRI. See what the damage is. Then you'll know better what you're dealing with. And, lay off the upperbody workouts until you are feeling 100% better.

From someones who's been there.