Why Do I Feel Bench Press In My Shoulders? Answers Here
Have you ever experienced discomfort or pain in your shoulders while performing a bench press? If so, you’re not alone. Although the bench press is one of the most popular and effective exercises for building a strong and impressive chest, it can be challenging to execute correctly without experiencing discomfort or even injury.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the reasons why you might feel the bench press in your shoulders, including common mistakes in technique, muscle imbalances, and underlying injuries or conditions.
We’ll also provide some tips and exercises to help you address the issue and build a stronger, more balanced upper body. So, whether you’re a seasoned lifter or just starting, read on to learn more about how to get the most out of your bench press without sacrificing shoulder health.
Why Do I Feel Bench Press In My Shoulders?
There are several reasons why you might feel the bench press in your shoulders. Firstly, the bench press is an exercise that requires the use of the shoulders to some extent, particularly during the lowering phase of the movement. However, if you are experiencing discomfort or pain in your shoulders during or after the exercise, it’s important to pinpoint where and when the issue is occurring. This can help you identify whether the problem is related to a ligament, tendon, or muscular issue. Additionally, poor form or attempting a new exercise without proper technique can contribute to shoulder pain. Common mistakes include using a grip that is too narrow or too wide, pressing the bar too high up your chest, having an inconsistent bar path, and flaring your elbows. Not engaging your scapula or allowing your shoulders to take over can also lead to discomfort. Muscle imbalances, such as weaker deltoids or pecs, can also contribute to shoulder pain during the bench press. Lifting too heavy, reducing your range of motion due to medical conditions or tight muscles, and not properly warming up can also exacerbate shoulder discomfort.
Let’s now look in more detail at all the reasons why you might feel the bench press in your shoulders and how to address them.
1. Shoulders are used in exercise
First and foremost, let’s not forget that the bench press is a compound exercise that primarily targets the chest muscles, but it also involves several other muscle groups, including the shoulders. During the bench press, the shoulders play an essential role in stabilizing the movement and assisting in the pressing motion.
The anterior deltoids, which are located at the front of the shoulders, are the primary shoulder muscles used during the bench press. These muscles work in conjunction with the pectoralis major and triceps to press the barbell away from the chest. The medial deltoids, which are located at the side of the shoulders, are also activated during the bench press to a lesser extent.
Additionally, the upper back muscles, including the rhomboids and trapezius, work to stabilize the scapulae and maintain proper posture throughout the movement. Engaging these muscle groups properly can help you maintain proper form, increase your strength, and prevent injury during the bench press.
2. Pinpoint where and when
Pinpointing the exact location and timing of shoulder discomfort during the bench press is critical to identifying and addressing the issue. It’s essential to pay attention to your body and pinpoint the specific area where you’re feeling the discomfort. Is it in the front or the back of the shoulder? Is it a sharp pain or a dull ache? Does it occur during the lifting or lowering phase of the movement, or both?
Once you have a better understanding of where and when the issue is occurring, you can start to identify the underlying cause. For example, discomfort in the front of the shoulder during the lowering phase of the bench press could be a sign of rotator cuff impingement, while discomfort in the back of the shoulder during the pressing phase could be a sign of an overactive posterior deltoid or weak scapular stabilizers.
By pinpointing the exact location and timing of shoulder discomfort during the bench press, you can work with a trainer or physical therapist to address the issue with targeted exercises and proper technique.
3. Ligament damage
The shoulder joint is comprised of several ligaments that provide stability and support to the joint during movement, including the bench press. Ligament injuries can occur when the ligament is stretched or torn beyond its normal range of motion. One of the most common ligament injuries that can occur during the bench press is a sprain of the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. This joint is located at the top of the shoulder and connects the clavicle to the scapula.
A sprain can occur when the barbell is placed too high on the chest or if the lifter is using improper form, causing the ligaments to stretch beyond their normal range of motion. Rotator cuff injuries are also common in the shoulder during the bench press. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that connect the upper arm bone to the shoulder blade and help to stabilise the shoulder joint.
Overuse or improper form during the bench press can cause the tendons of the rotator cuff to become inflamed or even torn. These injuries can be very painful and can significantly impact your ability to perform bench press and other upper-body exercises. It’s important to address any ligament injuries promptly to prevent further damage and to work with a healthcare professional or qualified trainer to develop a proper rehabilitation program.
4. Tendon damage
When performing a bench press, there are several tendons in the shoulder region that are at risk of injury. The rotator cuff tendons are particularly vulnerable during bench press exercises. These tendons attach the shoulder blade to the upper arm bone and are responsible for stabilizing the shoulder joint during movement. Injuries to the rotator cuff tendons can range from mild inflammation to partial or complete tears and can cause pain, weakness, and a limited range of motion.
Another tendon that can be affected during bench press exercises is the biceps tendon. This tendon attaches the biceps muscle to the shoulder and can become strained or torn with repetitive overhead movements. Finally, the long head of the triceps tendon can also be at risk during bench press exercises, particularly when the weight is lowered rapidly and forcefully towards the chest. Injuries to these tendons can be painful and can cause long-term shoulder problems if not treated promptly.
It is important to warm up properly before engaging in any exercise and to use proper technique to minimize the risk of injury.
5. Muscle damage
The muscles involved in the shoulder region that could get injured during bench press include the deltoid, pectoralis major, and trapezius muscles. The deltoid muscle is located at the top of the shoulder and is responsible for raising the arm away from the body. During the bench press, the anterior or front portion of the deltoid is heavily recruited. Overuse or incorrect form during the bench press can result in shoulder impingement or rotator cuff strains.
The pectoralis major muscle is the large muscle that covers the chest and is primarily responsible for pushing movements. The clavicular head of the pectoralis major is heavily involved in the bench press movement. Overuse or incorrect form during the bench press can result in strain or tears of the pectoralis major muscle, which can cause severe pain and limited range of motion.
The trapezius muscle is located in the upper back and neck region and is responsible for shoulder elevation and stabilization. During the bench press, the trapezius muscle is involved in stabilizing the shoulder blade. Overuse or incorrect form during the bench press can result in neck and upper back pain, and can lead to trapezius strains or trigger points. To minimise the risk of injury, proper warm-up, technique, and progressive overload should be implemented when performing the bench press exercise.
Related: Why Can’t I Bench Press As Much As Before?
6. Form and new exercise
If an individual is new to the bench press, they may initially feel more in their shoulder muscles due to the exercise being novel and their body not being accustomed to the movement pattern. This can be especially true for individuals who have not regularly engaged in exercises that involve pressing movements, such as push-ups or overhead presses. As the individual becomes more familiar with the exercise and their technique improves, they may feel the exercise more in the chest muscles and less in the shoulders.
Beginners need to start with light weights and focus on proper form and technique to prevent injury and minimize the risk of shoulder pain or discomfort. Gradually increasing weight and volume over time can help to build strength and improve overall muscle stimulation throughout the body.
Poor form during the bench press exercise can result in the weight being shifted towards the shoulders, placing unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint and rotator cuff tendons. This can lead to increased engagement of the shoulder muscles during the exercise and a reduction in chest muscle activation, making the exercise felt more in the shoulders.
Let’s look at some of the main reasons poor form can affect your shoulders when doing bench press
7. Grip too narrow or too wide
The grip width during a bench press can significantly affect the muscle groups that are engaged during the exercise. A grip that is too narrow or too wide can lead to increased shoulder involvement, making the exercise feel more difficult for the shoulders. A narrow grip, where the hands are placed close together on the bar, can lead to increased use of the triceps and shoulders, with less emphasis on the chest muscles. This can result in shoulder pain or discomfort, especially if the individual has poor shoulder mobility.
A wide grip, where the hands are placed farther apart on the bar, can lead to increased use of the chest muscles, but can also place additional stress on the shoulders and rotator cuff tendons. This can lead to impingement and discomfort or pain in the shoulder joint.
A moderate grip width, where the hands are placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, is generally recommended for most individuals. However, individuals with different body proportions and mobility limitations may need to adjust their grip width accordingly. It is important to experiment with different grip widths to find the most comfortable and effective grip for each individual.
8. Pressing too high up your chest
Pressing the bar too high up on the chest during the bench press can lead to the deltoid muscles being recruited more, making the exercise feel more difficult on the shoulders. This can be due to the fact that pressing the bar too high up the chest can cause the shoulders to internally rotate, which can put more stress on the rotator cuff tendons and cause impingement.
This can result in discomfort or pain in the shoulder joint, especially if the individual has poor shoulder mobility. Additionally, pressing the bar too high up the chest can lead to less involvement of the chest muscles and decreased overall effectiveness of the exercise. To minimize shoulder usage during the bench press, it is important to lower the bar to the mid-chest area, allowing the shoulders to remain in a neutral position and reducing the risk of impingement.
Additionally, maintaining proper form and keeping the elbows tucked in can also help to reduce shoulder engagement and increase chest muscle activation. To avoid harm and get the most from your workout, begin with lighter weights and concentrate on perfecting your technique when learning how to do a bench press.
9. Inconsistent bar path
Maintaining a consistent bar path during the bench press is crucial for proper muscle activation and minimizing stress on the shoulder joint. Inconsistencies in the bar path can lead to increased use of the shoulder muscles, making the exercise feel more difficult for the shoulders. For example, if the bar path is too low on the chest or dips towards the feet, the shoulders may internally rotate, causing impingement and discomfort or pain in the shoulder joint.
Conversely, if the bar path is too high on the chest or curves towards the head, this can also cause the shoulders to internally rotate, leading to impingement and increased shoulder activation. To maintain a consistent bar path, it is important to focus on keeping the elbows tucked in, lowering the bar to the mid-chest area, and driving the bar upwards in a straight line.
10. Not engaging scapulae and shoulders taking over
When performing a bench press, it is essential to engage your scapulae, or shoulder blades, to ensure proper form and avoid potential injuries. Failure to do so can lead to compensation by the shoulders, causing them to take over and bear more weight than necessary. This can result in increased tension and strain on the shoulder joints and muscles, leading to discomfort or pain.
Additionally, the lack of scapular stability can cause the bar to drift forward, decreasing the efficiency of the lift and potentially causing injury. For example, if you notice that your shoulders are creeping up towards your ears during bench press, it could indicate that you are not properly engaging your scapulae. Another example would be simply feeling more strain in your shoulders than your chest during the lift, which could indicate that your shoulders are taking over due to a lack of scapular engagement.
Remember to pull your shoulders down and back, engaging the scapulae during the lift to ensure proper form and reduce shoulder strain. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on proper scapular mechanics during the bench press to ensure the safe and effective execution of the exercise.
11. Muscle Imbalances
Muscle imbalances can greatly affect the execution of a bench press exercise. These imbalances can occur due to poor posture, previous injuries, or even overuse of certain muscle groups. When performing a bench press, muscle imbalances can cause certain muscles to work harder than others, leading to compensation by other muscle groups.
This compensation can result in the shoulders taking over and bearing more weight than necessary, leading to discomfort or pain in the shoulder joints and muscles. Additionally, muscle imbalances can lead to improper form and decreased efficiency of the lift, potentially leading to injury. For example, if you have weak chest muscles, your shoulders and triceps may compensate, leading to a lack of chest activation during the lift and increased shoulder strain.
Another example would be if you have overdeveloped anterior deltoids compared to your chest and triceps, causing the shoulders to take over during the lift and potentially causing shoulder pain. Therefore, it is important to address any muscle imbalances before performing a bench press exercise to ensure proper muscle activation and reduce the risk of injury.
Related: Why Do My Palms Hurt While Doing Push Ups?
12. Lifting too heavy
Lifting too heavy a weight during a bench press exercise can lead to compensations in form and increased strain on the shoulders. When attempting to lift a weight that is too heavy, the body may compensate by allowing the shoulders to take over, leading to increased tension and strain on the shoulder joints and muscles. This can cause discomfort or pain in the shoulders, potentially leading to injury.
If you are struggling to lift a weight that is too heavy for you, you may notice that your shoulders are creeping up towards your ears during the lift, indicating that you are compensating with your shoulders. Therefore, it is important to lift a weight that is appropriate for your strength level to ensure proper form and reduce the risk of injury.
13. Reduced ROM
Reduced range of motion (ROM) can greatly affect the execution of a bench press exercise and lead to increased strain on the shoulders. There are several reasons why ROM may be reduced during a bench press. One reason is due to medical conditions such as frozen shoulder or rotator cuff injuries, which can limit the mobility of the shoulder joint. Another reason is due to tight muscles, such as the chest or anterior shoulder muscles, which can restrict movement during the lift. Additionally, failing to properly warm up before a bench press can lead to reduced ROM, as the muscles and joints may not be properly prepared for the exercise.
When ROM is reduced during a bench press, compensations in form may occur, causing the shoulders to take over and bear more weight than necessary. This can lead to increased tension and strain on the shoulder joints and muscles, potentially causing discomfort or pain. For example, if you have a medical condition that limits the mobility of your shoulder joint, you may notice that you are unable to fully extend your arms during the bench press. Another example would be feeling tightness or restriction in your chest or shoulder muscles during the lift, indicating that your ROM may be reduced due to muscle tightness.
Therefore, it is important to address any medical conditions or muscle tightness before performing a bench press exercise and properly warm up to ensure full ROM and reduce the risk of injury.
Why do I feel bench press in my biceps?
It is normal to feel some tension in the biceps during a bench press. This is because your biceps are used to stabilize your elbows and help you keep control over the weight as you push it off of your chest. As you become stronger, this tension should lessen. Try increasing your grip strength on the barbell and working on bracing your core to help reduce tension in the biceps. Additionally, you can adjust your grip and hand placement on the barbell to further reduce stress on the biceps. If the feeling of tension persists, consult with a qualified trainer or sports medicine professional for more specific advice.
Don’t feel your chest during bench press?
Don’t worry, it is a common issue that can arise when you are new to bench pressing. There are several things you can do to ensure that your chest muscles get the most benefit from the exercise. First, make sure your grip on the bar is correct and comfortable – if it’s too tight or too loose, you won’t be able to engage your chest properly. Second, focus on lowering the bar slowly and deliberately – you want to feel a stretch in your chest before pressing the weight back up. Third, avoid locking out your elbows at the top of the movement – this will reduce tension on your chest muscles and limit its effectiveness. Finally, be sure to use proper breathing for maximum gains – inhale deeply as you lower the bar and exhale forcefully when pressing it back up. With these tips in mind, you should be able to get more out of your bench press and build a stronger chest.
Where should I feel bench press?
When performing the bench press, the main muscles used in the exercise should be the pectorals (chest), triceps (back of the arm) and anterior deltoids (front of the shoulder). Where you feel the bench press depends on which muscles are being engaged. When performing a traditional flat barbell bench press, focus on squeezing your chest when pushing the weight up, with your arms and shoulders assisting in the movement. You should feel the bench press mainly in your chest, but also in your arms and shoulders. If you are using a dumbbell for the exercise, focus on squeezing the weight up with both arms simultaneously and focus on feeling it across your chest area. When performing an incline or decline bench press, make sure to adjust your body accordingly to engage the correct muscles.
Why is my chest getting stronger but not bigger?
This is a common concern among those who are trying to build muscle and increase their chest size. It is important to remember that strength and size are not always directly related. You may be able to lift heavier weights, but your muscles have not necessarily grown in size yet. Many people begin to see an increase in muscle mass after several weeks of consistent training. To help ensure that your chest muscles are growing in size, make sure you’re doing the right exercises for building muscle and eating a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Additionally, it’s important to give yourself enough rest between workouts to allow your muscles to recover and grow.
Is the chest a hard muscle to grow?
It can be a difficult muscle to develop for some people, especially those who are new to strength training. To build a strong, muscular chest, it is important to use proper form and technique when performing chest exercises like bench presses or push-ups. Additionally, you should focus on progressive overload by gradually increasing the weight or reps in order to continue making progress. Eating a balanced diet and getting enough rest between workouts are also important factors in building a strong chest. With consistency and proper form, it is possible to build an impressive chest.
In conclusion, there are several reasons why you may feel the bench press in your shoulders. Poor form, attempting a new exercise without proper technique, muscle imbalances, lifting too heavy of a weight, and reduced range of motion can all lead to increased strain on the shoulder joints and muscles during a bench press. It is important to identify and address any of these issues before performing the exercise to ensure proper form and reduce the risk of injury. By understanding why you may be feeling pain or discomfort in your shoulders during a bench press, you can take the necessary steps to improve your technique and strengthen your shoulder muscles for better performance.
Do you feel bench press in your shoulders and have these tips helped? Let me know in the comments below.
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