Shoulder Pain when Bench Pressing

Note: This is second half of a two-part article. Visit the Bench Press Shoulder Pain article for the first 5 tips on reducing shoulder pain when bench pressing.

In the previous article, we discussed 5 methods for reducing shoulder pain when bench pressing. Below, you will find 5 more great methods that will get you back to pain-free pressing in no-time.

6. Warm-up Thoroughly

How many times have you seen someone go into the gym, throw 225 pounds on the bench, and proceed to perform a hard set? That is ridiculous and predisposes the lifter to vast amounts of injury, even beyond shoulder pain when bench pressing.

While there are a lot of ways to warm-up for a workout, no matter what you do, you will want to slowly warm-up to your work sets. For example, if your plan was to do a hard set at 275 lbs, your warm-up might look something like this:

45 lbs (unloaded bar): 20 reps
135 lbs: 15 reps
185 lbs: 5 reps
225 lbs: 3 reps
255 lbs: 1 rep
275 lbs: start work sets

The higher reps with the unloaded bar and 135 lbs get blood flowing to the tissue and actually change the viscosity of ligaments. Warm ligaments exhibit more flexibility and handle more load then cool, stiff ligaments.

The few reps are heavier weight get the nervous system ready for the hard contractions that will take place during the work sets. This reduces the likelihood of you tearing a muscle during a lift.

7. Always Get a Lift-Off and Re-Rack

This is another mistake many lifters make, even strong ones. The shoulder endures by far the most trauma during the lift off and re-rack. This is because the bar is further back than normal and is outside of the normal range of motion during a bench press.

In this “above the eyes” position, you are a lot more likely to place an unusual load on your shoulder and get hurt in the process. As a rule, have someone help you lift off the bar when you are using 65% or more of your 1 rep max. Once you complete the set, lock out and then have the person help you rack the bar.

8. Avoid Overhead Barbell Pressing

If you get shoulder pain when bench pressing, there is no need to place additional unnecessary load on the shoulder by overhead pressing. If you like to overhead press, press overhead with dumbbells and use a neutral grip (palms facing your ears). This position is a lot more comfortable on the shoulder.

9. Perform Overhead Shrugs

In addition to rear delt work, overhead shrugs are a great exercise for improving shoulder health. Hold a barbell over your head with your arms locked out and shrug your shoulders. The motion should be just like a traditional barbell or dumbbell shrug.

The overhead shrug improves shoulder function as it places some of the more problematic muscles (such as the levator scapulae and various neck muscles) in positions where they cannot optimally contract.

This way, the supporting musculature of the scapula (shoulder blade) is trained  without further compounding shoulder pain when bench pressing.

10. Cool down after your workouts.

While some lifters recognize that warming up is important, very few pay any attention to cooling down. After you finish your workout, do not just grab your gym bag and walk out the door.

Some light (or intense) stretching along with some joint mobility work is a good start. Even a basic pec stretch (hold your arm out to the side, bend your elbow to 90 degrees so your hand is pointing straight up, and then use a doorway to press your elbow backwards works just fine) and lat stretching will work.

Just make sure you do something to reduce your tension and relax a bit before heading out of the gym. Walking out of the gym moving worse (i.e. stiff and tight) than when you came in is a sure-fire way to end up with some chronic injuries.


By practicing these 10 tips, shoulder pain when bench pressing will be a thing of the past. Once you conquer shoulder pain when benching, increasing your numbers is easy!