Bench press and shoulder pain – What you should know!

The following is a email which I received from Paul Wright at Get Achieve Physiotherapy about bench press and shoulder pain/issues. So the following is not my information or article however I believe that it is important for all gym goers to read and I believe it sums everything up in the article. For more information go to

HI Paul,
Im interested in your thoughts on bench pressing and shoulder health? Should we be sticking to single arm standing cable pressing for maximum scapula movement to keep our shoulders ‘safe’ or do we just continue on with the big bench presses that are common in todays gyms?
James (Personal Trainer – Sydney)
HI James,
This question has been answered by Physiotherapist and the manager of our St leonards clinics – Brendan Wright – and YES – he is related.
Bench has long been a favourite exercise of body builders, sports people and gym goers for development of hypertrophy and strength in the pecs, triceps and anterior deltoid. This is because bench press tends to get
great results due to the ability to maximally load the muscles ie weight lifted/intensity.
In short I agree with what you have been taught regarding the lack of scapula retraction caused by the bench resulting in increased movement at the GHJ. The anterior shear of the humeral head will stress the anterior GH joint and potentially add to joint laxity.
It is my opinion that this stress on the anterior capsule only becomes problematic in cases where significant laxity is already present, for example in people with previous capsular injury such as dislocation and subluxation
As well as people with multi-dirctional instability.
This excessive glenohumeral movement caused by lack of scapula retraction in bench pressing more commonly causes excessive eccentric loading in the subscapularis tendon and subsequent tendinopathy rather than anterior
capsular stress and subsequent laxity. So if you bench press heavy enough and frequently enough – areas will be overloaded and then injured.
Ensuring correct technique will help to minimise the inevitable overload.
Tips for avoiding bench press related injuries.
1) Periodisation: schedule breaks from bench pressing every 6 weeks or so and substitute exercises that allow more scapula movement such as cable press and push ups. Even BB or DB pressing on a swiss ball allows
more scapula movement than a bench does. Also be careful to make gradual increases in intensity and volume only.
2) Roller/Towel: place a rolled up towel or 1/2 foam roller longways along the bench. This may also allow more scapula retraction.
3) Technique: always be careful of technique ie controlled eccentric movement without any bouncing.
4) Range: Reduce the range so that the bar is only lowered to 10cm above the chest.
5) Grip Width: vary your grip width regularly. Generally a narrower grip width reduces loading on the above mentioned structures.
I hope this helped James. For further information regarding shoulder health and gym exercises try Pauls DVDs, “Shoulder Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation for Health and Fitness Professionals” and “Potentially
Dangerous and Ineffective Exercises”.
Brendan Wright – St Leonards Clinic Manager
B.App.Sc (Physio).

I know this has a lot of more in depth than most people require. However consider the technique guidelines as explained in the article and lift safe


About North Adelaide Fitness Centre

Join the alternative to big impersonal Gyms! North Adelaide Fitness Centre offer all you have ever wanted in a gym. Including the Best Equipment, the World's Best Fitness Classes and programs to suit you. The best Personal Trainers in a secure and highly personalised environment. Discover the health club for real people. Come in and see what makes our program different from other gyms.
This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bench press and shoulder pain – What you should know!

  1. Ali Sarjeant says:

    I just want to tell you that I am newbie to blogging and site-building and certainly enjoyed your web blog. Almost certainly I’m want to bookmark your site . You definitely have amazing writings. Cheers for revealing your web page.

  2. Denita Swicord says:

    I am glad to be one of many visitors on this outstanding internet site (:, thanks for putting up.

  3. Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the
    issues. It was really informative. Your website is very useful.

    Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s