The Bench Press is probably one of the most common strength & conditioning exercises performed by exercise enthusiasts and athletes.  The Bench Press is an exercise that helps to build up primarily chest and tricep strength.  The anterior deltoids will also be trained during the bench press and its varying techniques i.e. incline, decline etc.

Bench Press Techniques

There are many different ways to perform a bench press with both the barbell and dumbbell.  In regards to this article, I will speak about Bench Pressing on a Flat Bench.  I have been bench pressing and going to the gym now for many years and the one thing that I see come up time after time with regular gym goers is shoulder injuries such as AC joint wear, Rotator cuff strains/tears, Subacromial bursitis/impingement, Biceps strain/tears etc etc.  Most of these individuals who suffer pain in the shoulder often have to adjust their chest workouts as well as shoulder workouts they can easily aggravate their conditions.

Tips To Help Reduce The Risk Of Shoulder Injuries Whilst Bench Pressing

  • Rather than going really wide with the elbows when bench pressing, try and keep the elbows tucked in close to the side of the body (this will feel like it is more of a bench press that is working the triceps also).  This helps to reduce the space between the elbow and the torso and therefore reduce load through the shoulder.
  • Rather than lowering the bar at the top of the sternum, try lowering the bar at the bottom of the sternum or top abdominal area.  This will help you to keep the elbows tucked in by the side  when benching.
  • Keep the Shoulder Blades firm and squeezed together against the bench.  Keeping these tight will help to provide a more stable base to bench press from.
  • Try and bend the bar in half when bench pressing, this will keep your lats switched on during the bench and keep the base stable and strong.

Tips to Help Reduce The Aggravation Of Shoulder Injuries When Exercising

  • Use a barbell to prevent you from going to deep in the exercise for the chest bench press.  If you use dumbbells, be mindful of your depth.
  • When performing dumbbell fly’s, be mindful of how deep you go with the fly.
  • Use a neutral grip exercise when performing a shoulder press rather than military press grip with dumbbells.
  • Be mindful of the load when lifting to avoid over aggravating the area
  • Be sure to mobilise and warm up the shoulder girdle and trunk before lifting heavy weights
  • Avoid dips if your shoulders give you trouble

Now all of these tips may not be suitable for all lifters.  I would suggest anyone with shoulder issues consult their Osteopath, Physiotherapist and Lifting coach before making any specific changes to your workout.  These are some tips that I have found to be helpful for that of my clients who train regularly and have shoulder issues.

Osteopath Heath Williams is owner & director of Principle Four Osteopathy.  Principle Four Osteopathy is located in the heart of the Melbourne City CBD 3000 at 29 Somerset Place, Melbourne City CBD 3000 (near the corner of Little Bourke & Elizabeth St).

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