• PhysioLogix Physiotherapy

Bench Press - Correct form for Shoulder Protection

The bench press is one of the most common and popular exercises performed in the gym. As many of you gym-goers would know; getting a bench on Monday's (otherwise known as international chest day) is nigh on impossible. However I often see peoples form vary wildy from perfect to less than ideal.

The bench press is an amazing exercise which helps to develop your pectorals, tricep and shoulder stabilisation musculature whilst also training shoulder joint-position sense. These are the benefits when performing the lift correctly. However, if performed incorrectly it predisposes your shoulder and acromioclavicular joints to injury. If it is your goal to not take unplanned breaks due to injury - read on.

Bench press form determines the stress that you place your shoulder joints and acromioclavicular (AC) joints under, likelihood of subluxing/dislocating your shoulder or straining a muscle.

Now depending on the muscles that you want to emphasis the grip that you use will differ. Narrow grip is used when focusing on training the triceps and wide grip is used when targeting the pectorals. When using either grip the decent of the bar is extremely important.

To avoid shoulder pain when lowering the bar it needs to come down so that your elbows are not in line with your shoulder. They need to be located just under the perpendicular line with your shoulders to prevent excessive pressure going through the it and prevent shoulder impingement.

When coming to the end of the press there are numerous articles that talk about how the bar needs to touch your chest to complete the downwards phase of the movement. This isn't completely true as everyone's anatomy is different. People who have long arms require the elbows to go passed the perpendicular level with the chest until they are hyper-extended behind your chest if they are to get the barbell to get in contact with the chest.

This causes a raft of issues as this is the most unstable position for shoulders to be in causing a greater risk for the shoulder to dislocate under heavy weight. In order to reach this hyper-extended position for people with longer arms the pectoralis major must lengthen significantly. When the pectoralis major is placed in an overstretched position such as this, and then required to lift heavy loads, it is during these moments when this muscle gets strained. Hyper-extension of the shoulder during bench press also places more loading through the AC joint which can also cause potential ligament strains and early onset degenerative changes in this joint.

To ensure that these issues do not occur anatomical differences in arm length need to be taken into consideration. This is done by monitoring the depth of the bench press movement by looking at the elbows towards the end of the movement to ensure that they aren't going passed chest level, rather than judging bench press depth by the barbell touching the chest. There are many individuals whose bar will touch their chest during the exercise and this is fine. The main issues that surround bench press are involved with the elbows going passed the level of the chest.

The bench press exercise is a solid compound lift which has a place in nearly all gym routine programming. It is excellent in developing strength and stimulating muscle hypertrophy. To ensure that the bench press is performed safely follow this tips and enjoy not taking time off due to shoulder issues.

If you are currently having issues with your shoulder or would like some additional pointers feel free to come in to the clinic. Remember we are open 7 days with after hour appointments available.

Remember that with bench press more plates do not always mean more dates - do it safely, do it with correct form,


PhysioLogix Director

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