Getting a bench press injury can be one of the most frustrating things a serious weight lifter can experience. In this article, I will discuss the most common bench press injuries and give some great techniques you can use to get back to benching as quickly and safely as possible.
Shoulder pain is easily the most common bench press injury. Shoulder pain can be caused by poor technique, muscle imbalances, poor mobility, and poor motor control.
Due to the prevalence of this type of injury and the various reasons that this can happen, I decided to dedicate a specific article to bench press shoulder pain. Visit that article for more specific strategies you can use to recover from this bench press injury.
Strained or Torn Pectoralis
Pulling or tearing the Pectoralis Major (the major muscle in the chest) is another common bench press injury.
Poor technique is the number one culprit for pulling or tearing the Pectoralis. If you bench with enough weight and keep your elbows flared to 90 degrees, it seems that eventually you will strain this muscle. Try benching with the technique outlined in the bench press technique article and you will find the Pectoralis will be much less likely to be strained.
In the case off a recurrent strain or coming back to the gym after a tear (get cleared by a Doctor first in this case), you should not jump right into barbell bench pressing. First, start with a floor press, as this limits the load placed on the Pectoralis Major and seems to help get lifters back into regular benching pretty quickly.
Once the floor press is comfortable, try the following progression:
– Dumbbell Incline Bench Pressing for Reps
– Barbell Incline Bench Pressing
Dumbbell Flat Bench Pressing
Barbell Close-Grip Bench Pressing,
..and then when close grip benching is comfortable, try heading back to the flat barbell bench press.
This may seem like a lengthy progression, but it is a safe way to get back into benching after a major pec injury. Building a big bench press is not done overnight; you need to stay healthy and be able to lift consistently in order to move a lot of weight. Just be sure when you get back to regular benching that you use good technique as mentioned above!
Getting wrist pain is another common bench press injury. This injury becomes more common as weight increases. Typically, this phenomenon is caused by allowing the wrist to extend backwards when benching.
To prevent this from happening, make sure that you always bench press with your wrist directly under the bar in the vertical plane. This is easier said than done and can take a lot of practice.
However, note that when benching over 300 or so pounds, wrist pain when benching becomes a lot more common and may be present even when using good form. When moving these heavy weights, it can be very helpful to invest in a set of powerlifting wrist wraps. These will stabilize the wrist while benching.
Finally, try lifting with a thicker bar. A thick bar distributes the force of the bar more evenly over the hand and wrist as compared to a thin bar. Spreading the load on different wrist tissues will result in decreased pain over time.
The last common bench press injury is getting back pain when benching. In particular, some people are not comfortable with holding even a mild arch.
This is indicative of a facet joint injury, though other factors could be responsible for similar pain. This may not be particularly caused by benching itself. More likely, the back was injured elsewhere and benching can add to the irritation.
The key here is to pick your battles. When performing sets of bench, your time using an arch is very limited. If you still insist on arching despite the pain, be sure to only arch on your max effort sets. There is no need to add extra load to your back when repping out lighter sets or doing accessory work.
Additionally, try incline benching more frequently as this is often much more comfortable in back pain cases than flat benching is.
Reducing this type of pain is far beyond the topic of this article. Trying to avoid aggravating the back when training. Additionally, try to sleep on your back, and work on the mobility of the hips and neck. These strategies seem to be very beneficial for this type of pain.
These four common bench press injuries do not need to be the end if your lifting career.
Remember that bench pressing serious weight is about longevity rather than running yourself into the ground over a simple bench press injury. Treat your pain seriously and take steps to reduce it; the longer you work through pain, the harder it is to get rid of it down the road.