How to Fix Shoulder Pain from Bench Press

Sports Nutritionist & Fitness Author
  • Chest, Compound Exercises, Injury Rehab, Shoulders
  • Posted 11 months ago

Note: Please consult with a healthcare professional before attempting any exercises or making changes to your workout routine to ensure they are suitable for your specific condition or situation, including if you have shoulder pain.

Are you tired of experiencing shoulder pain during your bench press workout?

You’re not alone! Many fitness enthusiasts and athletes face this common issue, which can be caused by improper formoveruse, or weak supporting muscles.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help you overcome this hurdle and make your weightlifting journey pain-free.

In this comprehensive blog, we’ll dive deep into the root causes of shoulder pain, shed light on the risks of ignoring it, and most importantly, provide practical solutions to alleviate discomfort.

Say goodbye to setbacks and hello to an injury-free fitness journey that keeps you motivated and on track. Let’s get started!

I. Understanding Shoulder Anatomy:

The shoulder, scientifically known as the Glenohumeral Joint, is one of the most complex joints in the human body.

The shoulder’s unique design with a ball-and-socket configuration enables a wide range of motion, but at the cost of reduced stability.

Comprised of three key bones – the humerus (upper arm bone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collarbone), this joint is held together and manipulated by an intricate network of muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

The surrounding musculature, collectively called the Rotator Cuff, plays a critical role in controlling the joint’s movement and maintaining stability.

Any weakness or imbalance in these muscles can compromise this stability, making the joint more susceptible to injury.

This, coupled with the repetitive, heavy load-bearing activity in exercises like the bench press, can sometimes lead to shoulder pain.

Common reasons include improper technique leading to excessive strain, muscle imbalances causing instability, and overuse leading to tendonitis or inflammation.

Understanding these aspects is the first step towards preventing shoulder pain and maintaining a healthy fitness routine.

II. Delving Deeper into Shoulder Pain from Bench Press: The Role of Technique, Training, and Muscle Balance:

Just like any finely tuned machine, our bodies require a blend of precision, balance, and rest to operate optimally.

Missteps in any of these areas, particularly when engaging in strenuous activities like bench pressing, can result in unnecessary strain or injury.

Let’s delve deeper into these aspects.

A. The Pitfall of Incorrect Form:

Proper form is crucial for any weightlifting exercise, including the bench press.

Misalignment or incorrect technique can significantly strain the shoulder joint, resulting in pain and potential injury.

If your elbows excessively flare out during the press or the barbell path is inconsistent, you could be jeopardizing your shoulder health.

By prioritising correct form, not only do you minimise the risk of injury, but you also maximise the effectiveness of your workout.

B. Overtraining and the Need for Rest:

In the pursuit of fitness, it’s easy to overlook the significance of rest. Overtraining can result in constant fatigue and inflammation, increasing the chances of shoulder pain or injury.

Remember, muscles grow and recover during rest periods, not while you’re lifting.

Incorporating adequate rest and recovery periods into your fitness routine is crucial for maintaining shoulder health and overall wellbeing.

C. Muscle Imbalances and Weaknesses:

Balanced muscle development plays a pivotal role in preventing shoulder pain.

Overemphasis on chest and shoulder muscles while neglecting the back can lead to muscle imbalances.

This imbalance can cause instability in the shoulder joint, resulting in discomfort or pain during bench press workouts.

Incorporating exercises that target all muscle groups, particularly the often-overlooked muscles of the upper back, can help maintain shoulder stability and avoid pain.

By paying attention to these three aspects – technique, training intensity, and muscle balance – you can mitigate the risk of shoulder pain and make your bench press sessions more productive and enjoyable.

III. Rehabilitation Exercises:

A. Warming Up: Start Right to Lift Right:

Before diving into your bench press session, prepping your body with a comprehensive warm-up routine is imperative.

This warm-up will gradually increase your heart rate, loosen up your joints and muscles, and prepare them for the stress of heavy lifting.

Starting your workout with aerobic activities like jogging or skipping, followed by dynamic stretches targeting the upper body, can significantly reduce the risk of shoulder strain during bench pressing.

B. Mobility Matters: Loosen Up with These Exercises:

A key aspect often overlooked in fitness routines is shoulder mobility.

Having a good range of motion in your shoulders can improve your lifting technique and help prevent injury.

Try incorporating shoulder mobility exercises like arm circles, wall slides, and scapular wall slides in your workout routine.

These exercises can enhance your shoulder’s flexibility and rotation capacity, making them more equipped for bench pressing.

C. Building Strength: Target the Right Muscles:

Lastly, to prevent shoulder pain during bench press, it is crucial to build strength in the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.

Strengthening exercises that target the rotator cuff and the muscles of the upper back like face pulls, shoulder external rotations, and scapular retraction exercises can significantly improve the stability of your shoulder joint.

These exercises not only enhance your bench press performance but also safeguard your shoulders from potential injury.

Remember, a balanced and strong shoulder is your best defense against bench press-induced shoulder pain.

IV. Correcting Bench Press Form:

A. Proper Grip and Hand Placement:

A critical aspect of bench pressing involves proper grip and hand placement, as it plays a pivotal role in ensuring shoulder health and optimising lifting efficiency.

The general rule of thumb is to position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the barbell.

This grip width is often referred to as the ‘medium grip’ and is ideal for alleviating unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint.

However, individual variations can occur, and it remains crucial to find a grip width that feels comfortable and natural to you.

B. Scapular Retraction and Positioning:

When it comes to bench pressing, your shoulders are just as involved in the lift as your arms and chest.

Therefore, maintaining correct scapular movement and positioning is vital for stability during the lift.

This technique, called scapular retraction, refers to pulling your shoulder blades together and ‘pinching’ them down and back.

This position helps create a stable base, maintains a neutral spine, and reduces the risk of shoulder injury by decreasing the range of motion required from the shoulder joint.

C. Elbow and Bar Path:

Lastly, the alignment of your elbow and bar path is of paramount importance in minimising shoulder strain.

A common mistake among lifters is to flare out their elbows excessively or allow the bar to drift away from a controlled path.

Instead, aim to keep your elbows at about a 75-degree angle from your body and ensure the bar moves in a consistent and controlled pathway, lowering to the mid-chest region and pressing up and back.

Adhering to this technique will help distribute the lifting load more evenly across your joints, reducing undue strain on your shoulders.

VI. Incorporating Variations and Modifying Equipment:

A. Incorporating Variations of Bench Press:

The bench press, while an excellent exercise for building upper body strength, may not always be suitable if you’re experiencing shoulder discomfort.

Therefore, it’s beneficial to consider alternative exercises like the Incline Bench Press or Close-Grip Bench Press.

These variations can help maintain muscle engagement while potentially reducing shoulder strain.

Always remember to start with lighter weights when trying new exercises, and focus on maintaining proper form.

B. Using Resistance Bands or Lighter Weights:

Another effective way to continue your strength training while minimising shoulder pain is to use resistance bands or lighter weights.

Resistance bands are not only portable and versatile, but they also provide continuous tension throughout your exercise, stimulating muscle growth effectively.

Similarly, using lighter weights with a higher repetition count can enhance muscle endurance and induce hypertrophy, all while reducing the load on your shoulders.

C. Utilising Machines or Dumbbells:

Finally, swapping out the barbell for machines or dumbbells can provide a more shoulder-friendly workout.

Machines, such as the Smith Machine, offer controlled movement patterns, reducing the risk of injury, while dumbbells allow a more natural range of motion and can help in addressing muscle imbalances.

Both options can provide similar muscle engagement as a traditional bench press, without putting undue stress on your shoulders.

By taking these considerations into account, you can maintain a robust and effective training regimen while also taking care of your shoulder health.

Always remember, listening to your body and adapting your workout accordingly is the key to sustainable fitness.

VI. Recovery and Rehabilitation:

A. Rest and Recovery Protocols:

It’s vital to remember that rest and recovery form an integral part of a comprehensive fitness regimen.

They are especially crucial in the event of shoulder pain after bench pressing. Allow your body adequate time to heal and adapt to the physical stressors imposed by rigorous workouts.

Reducing your training intensity, implementing rest days, and getting enough sleep are effective ways to facilitate recovery.

Remember, a well-rested body can perform better and is less prone to injury.

B. Rehabilitation Exercises:

Incorporating rehabilitation exercises into your routine can significantly aid in the recovery and strengthening of your shoulder.

Gentle and controlled movements like pendulum swings, shoulder blade squeezes, and doorway stretches can improve flexibility and stimulate blood flow to the affected area, expediting the healing process.

Regularly performing these exercises can also enhance your shoulder’s resilience against future injuries.

However, it is essential to listen to your body and stop any movements that cause pain.

C. Seeking Professional Help:

While these techniques can be helpful, it’s essential not to overlook the importance of seeking professional help.

If you’re experiencing severe or recurring shoulder pain, consult with a healthcare professional or a physiotherapist.

They can provide a thorough assessment, identify potential causes, prescribe suitable treatment, and guide you through your recovery journey.

Remember, ignoring pain or pushing through it can lead to more severe and long-term injuries. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health and well-being.


In summary, the content we’ve discussed provides a comprehensive guide to addressing shoulder pain from bench pressing.

Key points include the importance of maintaining proper form and technique to prevent injuries.

We discussed grip placement, scapular retraction, and elbow and bar path alignment.

We also considered alternatives and modifications to the traditional bench press, such as variations of the exercise, using resistance bands or lighter weights, and utilising machines or dumbbells.

Priority should always be given to your shoulder health and maintaining correct form.

Listening to your body, adapting your training, and remembering that rest and recovery are integral parts of a fitness regimen are essential practices.

Rehabilitation exercises can further strengthen your shoulder, but professional help should be sought if severe or recurring pain is experienced.

Remember, your health and safety come first in any fitness journey.

So, empower yourself with this knowledge, prioritise proper technique, and continue your journey to a stronger, pain-free bench press experience.

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