Bench pressing is really important exercise for developing both strength and size of your pectorial muscles. It is often used by many athletes that aim to increase their performance and it is one of the most famous exercises, it is one of the three exercises that powerlifting athletes perform. It allows you to put a lot of weight and press it, which is really helpful for muscle development, however there is a negative effect on your joints and tendons and if performed without proper warm up and proper form might lead to injuries.
Shoulder injury is one of the most common issues with joints for many athletes and fitness fans. One of the main reasons is the bench press exercise. We are not going to state that the exercise is bad or good for your joints, but we want to share with you few things that could really help you with avoiding injuries while performing it.
Now when we say warm up, we mean all the general quick movements that include moving your shoulder, elbow and wrist, but not just that. Before doing any heavy weight bench presses, make sure to do few warming up sets with about 50% of the usual weight. This wayyou are going to prepare the joints and ligaments for the upcoming heavier sets. Joints need lubrication to be healthy and strong, the warming up sets are going to increase the fluid that lubricates the joints, and they are going to be at less risk of injuries. Also the muscles and tendons are going to be prepared for heavier weights, and not just start with them at the first set.
Train your rear shoulder muscles
Bench pressing really increasse the strength and size of your pectoral muscles. But it also puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders, this commonly results of overdeveloping of your fron shoulder muscles, if you do not train your rear delts this might lead to posture issues and eventually to shoulder injuries. If you only train your fron shoulder muscles, and do not strengthen the rear muscles it will pull the shoulders to the fron and move the joint out of its optimal position to lift weights and move. In order to avoid that, you can take a look at this video to learn how to properly perform rear shoulder exercises
Draw your shoulder blades together
Drawing your shoulders together while performing bench pressing is a great way to avoid injuries. When you draw them together you pull them back and your shoulder joint is in its strongest position to take heavy weights.
Keep your elbows near your body
If you elbows are too wide open, it puts a lot more pressure on your shoulder joints, this increases the chance of injuries in that area. Keeping the elbows close to your body is a lot more “natural” position and your shoulders would be able to lift a lot more weight without risking to injure them.Watch this video to find out the proper position of your elbows while bench pressing:
Slowly increase the weight
As one of the most popular exercises for building mass and strength, bench pressing is strongly connected with lifting impressive weights. That is okay, but in order to avoid injuring yourself, it is a great idea to progress slowly. After warming up and picking the weight it should be the weight that you feel comfortable, of course sometimes you have to increase it in order to progress but you might feel tempted to try the heavier weight and that might hurt your joints, especially if you increase it too fast. Increasing the weight too much is usualy strongly associated with incorect posture and performing the exercise improperly overall. This as you might have already guessed is really important for your joint health. Increasing the weight with every work out might be good idea, but try to not listen to your “ego” when you work out.
Get a training partner
Bench pressing allows a lot of weight and is really risky to do it alone, in order to keep yourself safe, you should ask somebody – a friend or people that you don’t know but are working out at the time when you perform the exercise – his way you can safely exercise and avoid dropping the barbell on your chest when you feel tired and do not have the strength to put the barbell back. A training partner can also help you if you are performing the exercise incorrectly and can motivate you to push yourself and do a few more repetitions that could increase your progress, but remember not to increase the weight too quickly.
Consult with a fitness instructor
In order ro avoid injuries, you have to learn to perform the exercise with proper form, you might think “I have been doing it for 3 years” well that’s okay, you might be experienced or a newbie, but everybody could use a professional opinion from a licensed instructor. This is important first because they have a lot of experience, second because they can see you from a distance, this is important because you cannot observe yourself , there are no mirrors that can show you while bench pressing and this way you are performing the exercise without being able to see your form, and even if you know what the proper form is you might not be doing it. Especially in the last reps when the weight is “really heavy”.We would advise you to take at least few working sessions and to ask them specifically for bench pressing form and the exercises that you feel you can lift a lot of weight, because thei are the most risky ones, and that you should learn the form really well before putting a many plates and performing it.
Stretch your pectoral and shoulder muscles
Bench pressing puts a lot of tention on your chest and shoulder muscles, it really tightens them and this requires them to be stretched to be healthy and to prevent injuries due to muscle imbalances. Stretching is a great way to relieve the stress from muscles, tendons and to imrpve joint health. We would recommend you to stretch regularly but, to avoid to do it before the workout, many researches have shown that it is not a good idea to stretch before exercising, because it reduses the muscle performance. You can stretch them after a little bit of warming up few hours after you got up.
Perform rotator cuff exercises
Rotator cuff is a group of ligaments in your shoulder that connects the upper arm to the scapula (your shoulder blade). When performing bench press and other exercises the shoulder muscles get developed, but you miss the rotator cuff, and in order to have healthy shoulder joint and muscles it is a great idea to strengthen them. Usualy rotator cuff exercises are recommended to people that have sufferent shoulder injuries to help their shoulder’s recovery process, but you can do it before any injuries have occured. This is a great way to prevent any shoulder injuries, not just from bench pressing.Here is a videao that shows great rotator cuff exercisesYou can implement them in your shoulder workout or to do them once a week, note that you have to really be carefull with the weight, and not think of this exercise like the rest and increase the weight too much. They are used for strengthening the rotator cuff and should be really carefully performed.
If you enjoy bench pressing and you have seen really great progress with this exercise, you can implement some or all of those ideas to avoid any shoulder injuries, and continue to progress. Remember to warm up and if you are experiencing any shoulder pain either when performing the exercise or after the workout session you have to consult with a physician in order to determine if the cause is in your joints or in your muscles and to perform proper testing such as x-rays and ultrasound.