5 Pro Tips For Reducing Shoulder Pain During Bench Press - FITNESS PAIN FREE

5 Pro Tips For Reducing Shoulder Pain During Bench Press

As athletes we’re going to encounter pain and injuries from time to time.  It’s just part of the game and it’s going to happen if you end up training for long enough.  I get it, injuries are terrible and they can really throw a wrench into our training. I’ve certainly worked with my fair share of injuries over the course of time and continue to work with my own chronic issues regularly.  

If you currently have an injury or end up having pain, the smartest first step is to go get the injury evaluated by a professional.  This means a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. This program is not meant to be a rehabilitation program for any injury you may have.

That being said, just because we have some pain, doesn’t mean we should stop training.  Ideally, we can troubleshoot these injuries and learn how to train smarter when these issues pop up.

In our new training group, Champion Stronger, Kiefer and I have come up with a solution to training with injury.  We’ve made a section for all of the most common lifts used in the program and how to deal with pain when and if it pops up.

We cover:

  1. Bench Press
  2. Overhead Press
  3. Pull-ups
  4. Squats
  5. Deadlifts

For each movement we’ve created a modification plan of action for you on that training day if a particular exercise hurts.

So let’s say bench press is written into the program for the day.  You start warming up for the bench press and your shoulder isn’t feeling great.  Instead of blowing through the pain we make a smarter decision and go through the steps below to find a pain free variation to use for the day.

  1. Decrease total load or slow down speed of movement – Less total load decreases stress on the shoulder.  
    1. Increase number of reps (Decreasing the total load you can use for the set)
    2. Slow down the speed of the lift or add “pauses” in the bottom of the bench press
  2. Press less frequently throughout the course of the week for less reps – Often times decreasing total pressing volume will be enough to get out of shoulder pain.
    1. Reduce total sets of bench press in a given session
    2. Substitute 1-2 pressing exercises for rowing exercises within your program
  3. Vary the pressing exercise – Changing the angle, grip or implement is often enough to get out of pain while pressing
    1. Try changing to an incline or decline press
    2. Try changing grip width or switching to a neutral grip bar
    3. Try using dumbbells
  4. Narrow the grip and limit the range of motion – A more narrow grip and less depth will decrease stress to the AC joint
    1. Switch to close grip
    2. Try floor press, board press or spoto press
  5. Substitute pressing for rowing – If all else fails then try substituting a pressing variation for a rowing variation.
    1. Seal row, chest supported row, single arm dumbbell row etc.

As you read through you’ll see the first step to help reduce pain is to slow down the reps or slightly increase the rep range for the day.  If that takes care of the issue, great. That’s all of the modification you’ll need for the day.

You’ll also see that pressing volume is often an issue for painful shoulders and just modifying this variable can help with pain in the future.

Let’s say that your shoulder is painful during bench press warm-up sets and altering load, number of sets or speed doesn’t help. Well, we created a modification ladder to help you figure out what movement to use for the day.  Check it out below:

You’d first try the column to the far left to see if you can find any modifications that work.  If not you move onto the exercises in the center. If no exercises work, then finally substitute a rowing exercise in place of a pressing exercise for the day.  There you go, you’ve got a plan for the day.

As with any injury my most general advice is to initially avoid any aggravating movements and once the pain is feeling better to slowly progress back to the movements that were initially painful.  

For our example athlete above he may have just had pain on that specific day and the following week bench press is no longer painful and he can return to the normal programming.  More often than not, this won’t be the case. You may end up having to modify bench press for several weeks (or months) and slowly work your way back up the steps until you can now bench press again without pain.  

Let’s say the example athlete above ended up having to perform rowing in place of bench pressing for 2 weeks.  On the 3rd week he is feeling better and performs some dumbbell bench press. Dumbbell bench press feels great but barbell bench press is still aggravating so he performs dumbbell bench press for 2 more weeks.  Finally our athlete is feeling good enough to perform bench press a month later and gets back to it.

Now, everyone is different when it comes to pain and injuries.  That means that some people will get better faster and some slower.  Don’t push through pain and again, please go get yourself checked out by a trusted healthcare professional if pain or injury happens.

So there you have it, a simple plan for training with shoulder pain. These modification ladders are a large part of my new training group “Champion Stronger” which launches on January 7th.

We’re opening up the program for enrollment on Monday, January 7th and training for the group will start on January 14th. We did it this way so that everyone in the program starts at the exact same time and progresses together, just like if you were training with your friends at the gym.

Here’s what you can expect if you sign-up to be a part of our exclusive training group, Champion STRONGER:

  • A Challenging Monthly Training Program – We’re going to train hard. Every month you’ll get a new program that builds on the previous one, broken up into 3 month phases. The training will be largely focused around barbell strength training with a heavy dose of accessory work to keep you healthy and moving well. There will be options to modify the volume and exercises to fit your needs so you know you’re getting the best training for you, and we’ll take feedback from the group and design challenging, effective training blocks, so you never have to worry about coming up with your own workouts again.
  • BONUS Accessory Training Days – We get it, not everyone has the same amount of time for training. We designed the program to be a standard 4-day split, but to account for individual goals and needs we’ve written ‘bonus’ conditioning and accessory hypertrophy days so you can maximize your training towards your goals.
  • Expert Coaching –  Dan Pope, DPT, CSCS and Kiefer Lammi, CSCS are experienced coaches with backgrounds in powerlifting, olympic weightlifting, Strongman, and Crossfit. Both are part of the expert team of Physical Therapists and Strength Coaches at Champion PT and Performance where we help hundreds of real people from various backgrounds to get great results. Not only will you know you’re in great hands with the detailed thought they’ve put into your programming and associated info, but you’ll have complete access to their technical coaching through the Facebook community. Post training videos or questions any time and they’ll get back to you with detailed answers so you’ll always have piece of mind.
  • Built In Accountability and Community – There’s nothing better than training with a group of like-minded people who share similar goals and can push you to train harder and get the most out of your workouts. While an online group might not be quite the same, our exclusive online community will be there to push you, support you, and keep things fun in your training!
  • Detailed Information on Modification for Pain or Injury – We know that no single training program can be 100% perfect for everyone, and many of you may come into this with your own unique training and injury history. We took the time to prepare detailed information documents on how to navigate and manage pain and training modification for your major lifts. This alone is worth the cost of signing up!
  • Insight Into Our Coaching And Programming Process – Believe it or not, many of the people we work with are other coaches, therapists and athletic trainers looking to learn more and get great coaching themselves. Not only will you have a done-for-you training program, but you’ll have a chance to learn detailed parts of our training and programming process that could help you be a better professional yourself!

Click HERE to sign up for the wait list

That’s a ton of value in one training group and honestly, that was our goal. We’ve seen enough online training programs and groups to know what we’ve liked, and what we haven’t. We don’t want STRONGER to be just another training program. Our goal is to give you as much value as possible so that you’ve got everything you need to make it the last training group you ever join.

Come join us!

Dan Pope and Keifer Lammi

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