From Pain to Gain: Treating Shoulder Discomfort in Bench Press

shoulder pain bench press treatment

The bench press is a crucial exercise in the world of strength training and bodybuilding. However, for some enthusiasts, what starts as a pursuit of fitness can sometimes lead to a painful setback – shoulder pain during bench press. If you’ve experienced this discomfort, you’re not alone. Shoulder pain while bench pressing is a common issue but it has treatment that can hinder progress and even discourage some from pursuing their fitness goals. But fear not, as in this blog, we will delve into the root causes of this problem and explore effective treatments to help you bench press without the burden of shoulder pain.

Potential Causes Of Shoulder Pain During Bench PressPotential Causes Of Shoulder Pain During Bench Press

Shoulder pain during bench press can be attributed to several causes, which can contribute to discomfort and injury. Understanding these causes is essential for addressing the issue and preventing further pain. Here are the primary causes of shoulder pain during bench presses:

  • Incorrect Form: Poor bench press form is a leading cause of shoulder pain. When your form is off, it can place stress on the shoulder joint. Common form errors include improper grip width, flared elbows, and arching the back. Correcting your form is crucial for reducing shoulder strain.
  • Muscle Imbalances: Muscle imbalances can lead to shoulder pain during bench press. If some muscles are significantly weaker than others, they may not adequately support the shoulder joint during the exercise. This can result in overuse and strain on specific muscles and tendons.
  • Overtraining: Overtraining or lifting weights that are too heavy can strain the shoulder muscles and tendons. Bench pressing without allowing sufficient time for recovery can lead to chronic shoulder pain and even injuries like tendinitis.
  • Previous Injuries: Individuals with a history of shoulder injuries or conditions, such as rotator cuff injuries or shoulder impingement syndrome, are more prone to experiencing shoulder pain during bench press. Scar tissue and weakened structures can make the shoulder joint less stable and more susceptible to pain.
  • Lack of Warm-Up: Skipping or inadequately performing a warm-up before bench pressing can increase the risk of shoulder pain. A proper warm-up should include dynamic stretches and mobility exercises for the shoulder, chest, and upper back to prepare these muscles for the stress of lifting.
  • Improper Equipment: Using equipment that doesn’t provide adequate support or grip can also contribute to shoulder pain during bench press. Ensure that the bench and barbell you use are appropriate for your body size and comfort.

Some Exercises That Can Help Relieve Shoulder Pain Due To Bench Press

Shoulder pain during bench press can often be attributed to muscle imbalances or weaknesses in the shoulder complex. To alleviate this discomfort and prevent future issues, incorporating specific exercises into your routine can be highly beneficial. Here are some exercises that can help relieve shoulder pain associated with bench press:

External Rotations with Resistance BandExternal Rotations with Resistance Band

  • Attach a resistance band to a sturdy anchor point.
  • Hold the other end of the band with your affected arm, keeping your elbow at a 90-degree angle.
  • Rotate your forearm outward against the resistance of the band.
  • Perform 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions for each arm.

Internal Rotations with Resistance BandInternal Rotations with Resistance Band

  • Attach the resistance band to the same anchor point as before.
  • Hold the band with your affected arm, or elbow at 90 degrees.
  • Rotate your forearm inward against the band’s resistance.
  • Complete 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps for each arm.

Scapular Retraction (Band Pull-Aparts)Scapular Retraction (Band Pull-Aparts)

  • Hold a resistance band in front of you with both hands and arms extended.
  • Pull the band apart by squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Do 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.

Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercise (Foam Roller Stretch)Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercise (Foam Roller Stretch)

  • Lie on a foam roller along your upper back with your hands behind your head.
  • Slowly extend your upper back over the foam roller, maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

Doorway StretchDoorway Stretch

  • Stand in a doorway with your affected arm out to the side at shoulder height.
  • Bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle and place your forearm and hand on the door frame.
  • Gently lean forward into the doorway to stretch the front of your shoulder.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, repeating 2-3 times for each arm.

Sleeper StretchSleeper Stretch

  • Lie on your side with your affected shoulder facing up.
  • Bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle and place your hand on the bed.
  • Use your opposite hand to gently press your bent elbow down toward the bed.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, repeating 2-3 times for each arm.

Latissimus Dorsi Stretch

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Raise one arm overhead and bend your elbow.
  • Reach your hand down your back.
  • Use your opposite hand to gently push your bent elbow to the side.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds on each side, repeating 2-3 times.

How To Prevent Shoulder Pain During Bench PressHow To Prevent Shoulder Pain During Bench Press

Preventing shoulder pain during bench press is crucial for maintaining your overall shoulder health and enjoying a pain-free workout. Here are several strategies and tips to help you prevent shoulder pain during this exercise:

  • Proper Warm-Up: Always begin your bench press routine with a thorough warm-up. Perform dynamic shoulder, chest, and upper back stretches to increase blood flow and improve the flexibility of these muscle groups. This prepares your muscles and joints for the exercise.
  • Correct Form: Maintain a proper bench press form to reduce the strain on your shoulders. Focus on grip width, elbow position, and range of motion.
  • Proper Progression: Gradually increase the weight you lift and don’t lift more than your current strength level allows. Overtraining with heavy weights can lead to shoulder pain.
  • Balanced Muscle Development: Maintain a balanced strength training routine that includes exercises for all major muscle groups. Address muscle imbalances by strengthening the chest, shoulders, upper back, and rotator cuff muscles.
  • Warm-Up Sets: Start your bench press routine with lighter weights and higher repetitions (warm-up sets) to prepare your muscles and joints for the heavier working sets.
  • Rest and Recovery: Ensure adequate rest between bench press sessions to allow your muscles and joints to recover fully. Overtraining can lead to injury and pain.
  • Stretching and Mobility Work: Incorporate regular stretching and mobility exercises into your fitness routine. Pay special attention to the shoulder, chest, and upper back areas. This helps maintain flexibility and prevents stiffness.
  • Variation: Include a variety of chest exercises in your workout routine to reduce overuse of the same muscles. Dumbbell presses, incline bench presses and fly exercises can be good alternatives to traditional bench presses.
  • Use Proper Equipment: Ensure that the bench and barbell you use are suitable for your body size and provide adequate support and grip.

Effective Treatments For Shoulder Pain During Bench PressEffective Treatments For Shoulder Pain During Bench Press

There are several effective treatments to alleviate the discomfort. Here are some approaches to consider:

  • Ice and Heat: Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and alleviate acute pain. Use an ice pack wrapped in a cloth and apply it for 15-20 minutes every few hours. After the initial inflammation subsides, consider using heat therapy to relax the muscles and improve blood flow to the area.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation. Consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medications to ensure they’re appropriate for your situation.
  • Physical Therapy: Consult a physical therapist with expertise in shoulder injuries. They can assess your condition, provide targeted exercises and stretches, and recommend techniques to improve your shoulder mobility and stability.
  • Rotator Cuff Strengthening: Incorporate exercises that strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, as they play a crucial role in shoulder stability. Resistance band exercises, internal and external rotations, and face pulls are beneficial for strengthening these muscles.
  • Mobility Work: Perform regular shoulder mobility exercises to improve the range of motion in your shoulder joints. This can help reduce strain during bench press. Common mobility drills include shoulder dislocations, wall slides, and arm circles.
  • Massage and Soft Tissue Work: Consider massage therapy or myofascial release techniques to address muscle tightness and knots in the shoulders and upper back.
  • Ergonomic Changes: Ensure your workout environment is ergonomically sound. This includes adjusting the bench height, barbell position, and grip width to reduce stress on the shoulders.
  • Consultation with a Specialist: If the pain persists or worsens despite conservative measures, consider consulting an orthopedic specialist. They may recommend diagnostic imaging such as MRI or ultrasound to rule out more severe issues and discuss potential treatments, including corticosteroid injections or, in rare cases, surgical intervention.


In conclusion, experiencing shoulder pain during bench press can be both frustrating and concerning for anyone looking to improve their strength and fitness. However, it’s crucial to address this issue proactively to prevent further discomfort or potential injury. By implementing the right strategies, including proper form, warm-up exercises, shoulder mobility drills, and gradual progression in weightlifting routines, you can minimize the risk of shoulder pain and continue to enjoy the benefits of bench pressing safely and effectively. Prioritizing your shoulder health ensures you can work towards your fitness goals with confidence and comfort.

Physical Therapy helps patients recover from pain. If you’re experiencing Back, Shoulder, Knee, Neck, Elbow, Hip, or Arthritis pain, physical therapist at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.