Shoulder pain when bench pressing is a common problem. The location of pain may be felt at the front of the shoulder, inside the joint, or in the chest. Common diagnoses associated with shoulder pain include rotator cuff tears/tendonitis, biceps tendonitis, impingement syndrome, labral tears, frozen shoulder, and shoulder arthritis.
To obtain an accurate diagnosis, an examination would be needed. Although there are differences in how you should treat each of these conditions, there are common principles that will help you overcome shoulder pain when bench pressing.
If you have shoulder pain when bench pressing, you may have weakness of your shoulder stabilizer muscles (e.g. rotator cuff, lower trap, and serratus anterior). In addition, you may have stiffness in your upper back that limits your shoulder mobility. You may also have difficulty coordinating your muscles and have poor lifting mechanics. If you have any of these limitations, repeated bench pressing can place stress on your shoulder and result in pain.
The best way to know what is contributing to your shoulder pain when bench pressing is to have a movement assessment performed.
If you have weakness, learning how to activate muscles that are not firing well is key. Some of our "go-to" exercises include the side-lying shoulder rotation for rotator cuff activation and supine pullover for lat activation.
Once your muscles engage better, the next step is restoring movement. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint and should move in 3-planes of movement. Exercises that can help restore movement are trunk stability rotations, the reach, roll and lift, and scap pulls on gymnastic rings.
Once you have learned restored movement, you need to slowly build back your bench press using the optimal technique. Slowly increasing weight over time will enable you to safely get back to a heavy bench press. In addition, to prevent recurrent injury, you should develop a well-rounded upper body program. Practicing pushing and pulling variations like pull-ups (or weighted pull-downs), rows, military presses, and push-ups will prevent you from overtraining and developing muscle imbalances. In addition, exercises like the kettlebell armbar and Turkish Get-up will help you train your smaller stabilizing muscles. If you can generate tension and maintain solid technique, all these movements can be performed safely and will enable you to have a healthy and functional shoulder.
Most of the aforementioned exercises can be found in our video library.
When addressed with a specialized physical therapy program, bench pressing without pain is possible. However, ignoring pain and engaging in repetitive activity can result in a further decline of your shoulder health. If you're worried about shoulder pain, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to help you.
We invite you to request a shoulder consultation with one of our specialists. This is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your shoulder pain, and foster confidence that we can help you. If you’re certain that we’re a good fit to work together, you can decide on the next step.
If you’re in pain but unsure about what you should do, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.