How to stop shoulder pain after bench press

Shoulder pain is a common issue that can significantly impact your bench press performance and overall training. If your shoulder hurts when benching then this is the guide for. You will learn what might be causing your shoulder pain and steps to fix it. The shoulder is a complicated joint. You may feel shoulder pain or discomfort in the front, side, or back. As a result it is important to look at the whole joint and assess form, volume, and injury history.

Why Does My Shoulder Hurt When Bench Pressing?

The shoulder is a complex joint prone to various injuries, especially under the strain of repetitive movements like bench pressing. Understanding the root causes of shoulder pain can help in developing effective management strategies. She shoulder is a very unstable flexible joint making it more likely to get injured.

Common reasons for shoulder pain

Rotator Cuff Injury

The rotator cuff comprises muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder. Repeated stress or acute overload during bench pressing can lead to tears or inflammation of these tissues, resulting in pain and reduced functionality.

Labral Tear

The labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket and helps keep the ball of the joint in place. Lifting heavy weights or sudden movements during bench press can cause labral tears, leading to pain, decreased range of motion, and joint instability.

Overloaded Tissue

Excessive weight or improper form can overload the muscles and tendons of the shoulder, leading to strains and tears. This not only causes immediate pain but also increases the risk of chronic shoulder issues. This can come form bench pressing to often, not recovering properly or improper form. 

Shoulder Impingement

This occurs from improper movement of the shoulder joint and shoulder blade. If these things are not moving correctly, the tendon and muscle of the shoulder can rub on bone making your shoulder inflamed and irritated. 

Is It Dangerous to Bench Press with Shoulder Pain?

Benching with shoulder pain can potentially exacerbate the injury or increase the likelihood of developing more serious complications that could require extensive treatment or surgery. If you experience persistent shoulder pain during bench pressing, it is advised to make adjustments to your training or consult a health professional to prevent further damage. 

Ignoring shoulder pain and continuing to bench press can lead to further damage. Recognizing when to modify your workout routine is key to preventing long-term shoulder injuries. Here are techniques to 

PSA. Without a proper examination I am unable to make specific recommendations. This guide serves as general approach meant to serve as education resource for those struggling with shoulder pain while bench pressing.

Modifying Exercises Due to Shoulder Pain

Implementing specific techniques can help manage and prevent shoulder pain during your workout:

Ensure Proper Form

Maintaining the correct form is crucial. Keep your feet firmly on the ground, back flat on the bench, and ensure your wrists are straight while gripping the bar. Arch your back and engage your shoulder blades. 

Adjust Grip Distance

Experiment with narrowing or widening your grip to find a position that reduces shoulder strain. Going too far in either direction can cause irritation on the shoulder. Start at shoulder width or just outside of shoulder width. 

Adjust the Degree of Elbow Flair

Elbows flared out excessively can heighten stress on the shoulder. Keeping elbows closer to your body can help minimize this. An angle of 45 degrees between you arm and torso is a good rule of thumb. 

Adjust Tempo

Slowing down the movement during the lift can help maintain control and reduce the risk of jerky motions that may strain the shoulder. Try reducing the weight, count to 3 on the way down, pause on the chest for 1 second, and return to top in 3 seconds. This is called a 3-1-3 rep.

Adjust Range of Motion

Limiting how deep you go during the bench press can help prevent the shoulder from reaching angles that increase impingement risk. Try not going as deep stopping 2-4 inches before hitting your chest.

Place a Block on Your Chest or Use Pins to Limit ROM

Utilizing a block or setting pins in a rack to limit the bar’s descent can effectively reduce shoulder strain by minimizing the range of motion. You can use a foam block on your chest or adjust the pins of the power rack to reduce the ROM.

Try Dumbbells

Dumbbells require more stabilization, which can help strengthen the shoulder muscles evenly and allow for adjustments in arm angle that might be less painful. WIth dumbbells, you also get more control of the path of movement. This allows you to find a pattern that is more comfortable on your shoulders. 

Exercises to Fix Shoulder Pain During Bench Press

Incorporating specific exercises can strengthen the shoulder and alleviate pain. Here are my favorite:

Banded/Cable External Rotation 

This exercise helps strengthen the rotator cuff, improving its stability and endurance. Start with your arm at your side. As this becomes too easy put your shoulder in a 90/90 position to increase the difficulty. 

Floor Scapular Push-Ups

These target the scapular muscles, crucial for shoulder stability and mobility, without overloading the joint. Get your self into a pushup position with straight arms. Push the ground as far away from you as possible. You should feel your shoulder blades slide apart.

Face Pulls

Face pulls are excellent for balancing the muscles around the shoulder and upper back, reducing the risk of imbalances that lead to pain. Set up a high band or cable. Drive your elbows towards your ears as far as can. 

Scaption Raise

This exercise targets the shoulder muscles while also engaging the rotator cuff, improving overall shoulder health and function. Start with light dumbells, and perform a lateral raise of approximately 30 deg from complete horizontal. 

Arnold Press

The Arnold press allows rotation during the press motion, which can be less stressful on the shoulders compared to traditional presses. Start with forearms supinated. As your press the weight up rotate out so your palms face forward at the end of the rep.

Alternative Exercises to Bench Press

When shoulder pain persists, consider switching to alternative exercises that place less strain on the shoulder:

Floor Press

This variation limits the range of motion, thereby reducing the load and stress on the shoulder during the exercise. Perform on your back with moderate weight.

Block Press

Using blocks to limit the depth of the bench press can also decrease shoulder strain, similar to the use of pins. Place a block on your chest to limit depth and perform a normal bench press. 

Cable Cross Over

Cable exercises offer more controlled movement that can be adjusted to prevent pain, making the cable cross-over a suitable alternative for those with shoulder issues.You can perform high or low cables. 


Regular or modified push-ups (e.g., on knees or with hands elevated) can be an excellent way to maintain chest and arm strength without the intense load of a bench press, thereby reducing shoulder stress. I won’t tell you how to do a push-up. 

Want 8 more bench press alternative exercises when dealing with shoulder pain? Check out our blog post on the topic.


Shoulder pain during bench press is not just a minor nuisance—it can signal significant issues that may lead to long-term problems if not properly managed. By understanding the causes of shoulder pain and implementing modifications and alternative exercises, you can help protect your shoulder health while continuing to build strength and endurance. Remember, if shoulder pain persists, it is wise to consult with a healthcare professional to get a tailored approach to your condition. This ensures that your fitness journey remains both safe and effective, allowing you to achieve your goals without compromising your health.

In summary, adapting your training routine in response to shoulder pain is crucial. Whether it’s tweaking your bench press form or incorporating supportive exercises, these adjustments can make a significant difference in managing and resolving shoulder issues. Opting for alternative exercises also provides a safe pathway to continue training while allowing your shoulder to recover. Overall, taking proactive steps to address shoulder pain will ensure your training longevity and safeguard your shoulder health for the future.

2 thoughts on “How to stop shoulder pain after bench press”

  1. Pingback: How To Fix Overhead Press Shoulder Pain For Good - Barbell Wellness

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