Physiotherapy For Shoulder Pain Articles
Managing Bench Press Shoulder Pain: Tips for a Pain-Free Workout

Managing Bench Press Shoulder Pain: Tips for a Pain-Free Workout

It's well-established that shoulder injuries being one of the most common injuries in powerlifting, particularly due to the demands of the bench press, which is one of the three main powerlifting exercises.

Although the real aetiology is unclear, it's suspected that training loads and training techniques are some of the main culprits as to why powerlifters are experiencing shoulder pain or injury to other parts of the body.

In this article, we will explore why bench press can lead to shoulder pain and injury and provide tips, exercises, and strategies to help you do bench pressing pain-free.

How Can a Bench Press Exercise Lead to Shoulder Pain and Injury?

The bench press is a popular exercise for strengthening the chest, shoulders, and arms. However, incorrect form or overuse can lead to shoulder pain and injury. Here are possible reasons why you're experiencing shoulder pain during the bench press exercise:

Not Observing the Proper Bench Press Form

It's crucial to maintain the correct body alignment throughout the exercise. This means keeping your feet firmly planted on the floor, your lower back slightly arched, and your shoulder blades retracted and squeezed together. Make sure to also look out for your starting position before lowering the bar, as it determines the muscles that will be recruited more or less intensely.

Neglecting these key aspects of proper form can place unnecessary stress on your shoulders, leading to pain and potential injury.

Improper Grip Width

A grip that is too narrow or too wide can strain the shoulders and lead to discomfort. The ideal grip width varies depending on an individual's body structure and preference.

Experiment with different grip widths to find the one that feels most comfortable for you. It should allow you to maintain a stable and controlled movement throughout the exercise.

Pushing Beyond Your Optimal Range of Motion

It's important to know your body's limits and avoid going beyond what feels comfortable. Lowering the barbell too far down puts excessive stress on the shoulders and can lead to pain and injury. Find the range of motion where you can maintain proper form and execute the exercise without strain or discomfort.

Muscle Imbalance

Muscle imbalances can also contribute to shoulder pain during bench press. When certain muscles are stronger than others, it can affect the stability of the shoulder joint, leading to pain and discomfort. To address muscle imbalances, it is essential to incorporate exercises that target the weak muscles.

Joint Dysfunction

If the shoulder joint is not functioning optimally, it can lead to pain and a limited range of motion. Seek the help of a qualified physiotherapist or sports therapist to assess and address any joint dysfunction you may have. They can provide you with targeted exercises and stretches to improve joint mobility and reduce the risk of pain and injury during bench press.

Tips to Have a Pain-Free Bench Press Session

Now that we have identified the common causes of shoulder pain during bench presses let's discuss some tips to help prevent and eliminate shoulder pain during bench presses:

Perform Strengthening Rotator Cuff Exercises

Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles can help stabilise the shoulder joint and prevent pain during bench press. Incorporate exercises such as external rotations, internal rotations, and scapular retractions into your workout routine. These exercises help prevent a rotator cuff injury by strengthening the shoulder muscles and improving the stability and mobility of the shoulder joint.

Learn What Grip Width Works Best for You

Experiment with different grip widths to find the one that works best for you. A grip that is too narrow or too wide can strain the shoulders and lead to pain. Start with a moderate grip width and make small adjustments based on what feels most comfortable and allows for a stable and controlled movement.

Know Your Range of Motion

Understanding your body's limitations and respecting your range of motion is crucial for a pain-free bench press session. Avoid pushing beyond what feels comfortable for your shoulders. Find the range of motion where you can maintain proper form and execute the exercise without strain or discomfort.

Lock Your Shoulder Blade in a Retracted Position

During the bench press, it is essential to keep your shoulder blades retracted and squeezed together. This helps create a stable foundation for the shoulders and reduces the risk of pain and injury. Focus on retracting your shoulder blades throughout the entire movement, ensuring they are securely positioned against the bench.

Don't Lift More Than You Can Carry

It's crucial to choose a weight that allows you to maintain proper form and execute the exercise with control. Lifting excessively heavy weights can strain the shoulders and increase the risk of injury.

Try Substituting Barbells for Dumbbells

If you continue to experience shoulder pain during bench press, consider substituting barbells for dumbbells. The dumbbell bench press allows for a greater range of motion and can provide a more natural movement for your shoulders in comparison to the barbell bench press. They also require more stabilisation from the supporting shoulder muscles, which can help address any muscle imbalances that may be contributing to the pain.

Try Incorporating a Low Incline On Your Bench Press

Another modification you can make to alleviate shoulder pain during the bench press is incorporating a low incline. This slight incline can help shift the emphasis away from the shoulders and onto the chest muscles. By reducing the stress on the shoulders, you may be able to perform the exercise without pain or discomfort.

However, make sure to know and master the basics of doing bench press first, especially the proper bench press form, before you proceed to do a bench press variation if you're just starting out.

Decrease Your Bench Press Volume

If you are experiencing persistent shoulder pain during bench press, it may be necessary to decrease your bench press volume. This means reducing the number of sets and repetitions you perform or taking longer rest periods between sets. Giving your shoulders adequate time to recover and gradually increasing the workload can help prevent overuse injuries and promote pain-free bench press sessions.

How Physiotherapy Helps Manage Shoulder Injury and Pain During Bench Press

Despite our best efforts to follow proper form and technique, shoulder injuries can still occur during bench presses. In such cases, seeking the help of a qualified physiotherapist from Phoenix Rehab can be invaluable in helping fix shoulder pain by managing and rehabilitating the injury.

Physiotherapy can include techniques such as manual therapy, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation to help manage pain and reduce inflammation in the affected shoulder. Through targeted exercises and stretches, the physiotherapist can work to restore mobility, flexibility, and strength in the shoulder, addressing any imbalances or weaknesses that may have contributed to the pain.

In addition to addressing the current shoulder pain, physiotherapy shoulder pain can include strategies to prevent future injuries, such as specific strengthening exercises and functional training tailored to the demands of bench press and related activities.

When to See a Doctor

While most cases of shoulder pain during bench press can be managed with proper form, technique, and exercises, there are instances where medical intervention may be necessary. If you experience severe pain, swelling, or a sudden loss of range of motion in your shoulder, it's important to seek medical attention. A doctor will be able to assess the extent of the injury, order any necessary diagnostic tests, and provide appropriate treatment recommendations.

Final Words

Bench press shoulder pain is a common issue that many powerlifters face. However, by understanding the causes of shoulder pain and implementing some best practices and modifications in your routine, you can minimise the risk of injury and enjoy pain-free bench press sessions.

Remember to prioritise proper form, listen to your body's limits, and seek professional help when needed. With patience, persistence, and proactive care, you can continue to make progress in your weightlifting journey while keeping your shoulders healthy and pain-free.

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