How To Prevent Shoulder Injuries While Bench Pressing


If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have suffered with an injury of any sort, you won’t need anybody to tell you just how painful, frustrating, and debilitating the entire condition can actually be. If you tend to exercise and workout regularly, if you’ve never suffered some form of injury or another then consider yourself extremely fortunate as injuries and working out often go hand in hand with one another, particularly if you don’t quite know what you’re doing.

Weight lifting in particular is especially dangerous which is why we need to ensure that we do all that we can to prevent injuries from occurring. Common injuries associated with lifting tend to affect the shoulder, particularly the rotator cuff, which is a very serious and incredibly painful injury to suffer.

People that bench press often experience discomfort in their shoulders, as rotator cuff injuries are unfortunately very common amongst bench pressers. I often get asked questions relating to bench pressing and shoulder injuries, with one of the most common questions basically asking what can be done to prevent shoulder injuries whilst benching. Well, in an attempt to answer this question as best I can, here are a few typical examples of things that can, and should be done to prevent shoulder injuries whilst bench pressing.

Do not treat this as medical advice – see your GP/doctor, especially if you are experiencing any pain or sensation in the shoulders. Stay safe!

If it hurts…stop!

Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong with it and that it would like a break in order to rest and recuperate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people contact me telling me that their shoulders have been hurting for several weeks, possibly even months whilst benching, and asking what they should do. I always tell them the same thing, and that is to stop!

If your shoulder hurts whilst bench pressing, don’t attempt to work through the pain and don’t bury your head in the sand and ignore it, hoping that it will go away because it won’t. Working through pain or discomfort will only make things worse. If you do experience any pain and discomfort, stop the exercise and either look for an alternative, or simply stop training altogether for a few days, possibly even weeks, and let your body heal. Hopefully, as long as there has been no permanent damage done, it will heal over a week or so and you can try again.

Always warm up

This is another example of an incredibly simple and effective method of preventing shoulder injuries, or any other injury for that matter, yet people simply don’t do it. Before your workout, take 5 – 10 minutes and warm up your body. Stretch your muscles, perform some simple warm-up exercises and techniques, and see how things go from there.

Get a lift-off with the bar

Shoulder injuries are far more common amongst people that barbell bench press rather than dumbbell bench press, and it’s often down to the very first part of the movement, before a single rep has been performed.

Lifting the bar up and off the rack means that for a few seconds, your shoulders are forced to bear the brunt of the entire barbell’s weight whilst you get it into position in order to execute the lift. To help take unnecessary stress off your shoulders, ask a workout partner, or another gym-goer to give you a quick lift-off with the barbell. If you’re flat bench pressing you should always have a spotter with you anyways, so make use of them.

Use a lighter weight

Although you might be tempted to attempt to lift heavy weights in order to show off or look cool, in reality if you are suffering with pain and discomfort in your shoulder, you should never use a heavy weight anyways.

If you do insist on bench pressing, try using lighter weights and doing more reps instead. Whereas before when you may have been doing 8 – 10 reps with a heavy weight, try going lighter and aiming for 15 – 20 reps instead. By the end of the session your chest will be on fire, but more importantly, your shoulder will be pain-free.