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When I bench press my shoulder hurts [Article, Video]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Dec 23, 2016 10:00:00 AM

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When I bench press my shoulder hurts


I bench press for three years now at the time of writing claiming a 150kg PR at 85kg to 90kg depending the time of year. There are many factors which can lead to shoulder pain when you bench press and we are taking a look into a few of them in this article. Please always consult a doctor if you are in doubt about your health.

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You indulged yourself in the beauty of the bench press. The first plates are adding up to the bar, you might even already bench press past 100kg or 225 pounds. Still, you wonder why that pain in your shoulder is getting worse and bothering you ever more. You have tried pain killers, stretching, and other accessory work, but still can’t get rid of it. Yet you think it is also not bad enough to justify a trip to the doctor that jeopardizes all of them precious gains you have made in the gym. Sounds familiar? Well, congratulations you are either an old fart like me or you have finally arrived in the real world of training.

What could be the reasons of that persistent, irritating shoulder pain? The load you put on the bar? How many times you go to the gym and whether you train chest each day? Is it a skeletal shortcoming or a muscle pain? Do you drown yourself in pre- post- and during workout supplements while gargling with protein to get rid of your shoulder pain because it stems from being under-nourished? All possible explanations of why your shoulder hurts when you bench press.

The Load is in my personal opinion one of the least likely factors to cause your shoulder pain. I have been bench pressing for three years now and the only time load was the culprit for any pain it was because I was too stupid to know my own limits and therefore failed a rep in an embarrassing way. In this case, if you do not control the bar, yes you might injure your shoulder.

The Volume of training can be a contributing factor to shoulder pain due to overuse. For me personally, it is not one of the contributors as I bench press like a powerlifter by keeping my elbow very close to my chest rather than flaring them out at a greater angle.

Diet is unlikely to be the culprit for shoulder pain. If you experienced any pain in your body because of malnourishment it would most likely impact your entire body and other areas outside the shoulder. Also, it would occur more randomly during the day and not just specifically when you bench press.

Muscle or Skeletal pain due to the positioning of the arms in relation to the torso is most likely the deciding factor for the pain you are experiencing when you bench press. The wider the angle between your elbow and torso is, the more likely you will experience pain during the bench press by bringing the arms in an unnatural position. If you bring your elbow so far out, that it forms a 90-degree angle with your torso it is probably to wide. Try to work between 30 to 45 degrees to experience less pain.


Pain in the shoulders when you bench press most likely originates from too big of an angle between torso and elbow. You can fix this quickly by moving the elbows closer to your torso when executing the lift. A nice side effect will be that you also set up to bench press more weight by bringing yourself in a more advantageous position to achieve this goal.

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Topics: Lift stronger, Bench Press