The Flat Barbell Bench Press is the standard bodybuilding exercise for developing the chest, but many lifters find that years of benching has taken its toll on their shoulder joints. So what options are available when the traditional Bench Press just isn’t practical anymore?
Below are 3 other exercises you can perform to continue developing your chest if shoulder pain is preventing you from performing regular Bench Presses. Also, consider perfoming some rotator cuff movements on a weekly basis to help stabilize the area.
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Include plenty of light, warmup sets and don’t hesitate to stop the workout if you feel intense pain in the shoulder joint.
- FLAT DUMBELL BENCH PRESSES
You’d think that there wouldn’t be much difference between using a barbell or using dumbells, since the movement is basically the same, but switching to dumbells actually gives this chest movement an entirely diffent feel.
Stick with lighter weights and concentrate on bringing the weights down and back up in a slightly wider arc than normal. This may feel awkward at first, but it puts incredible tension right where you want it: on the pectoral muscles instead of the shoulder joints.
While the dumbells will allow you to bring the weights down further at the bottom, don’t feel obligated to increase your range of motion if doing so causes further irritation to the shoulder joints.
- DECLINE DUMBELL BENCH PRESSES
Here again, switching from barbells to dumbells can make all the difference in the world. Take care at the bottom of the movement and don’t overstretch those joints to the point of discomfort or pain. As with the Flat Presses, bring those dumbells out in a little bit of an arc and not just straight up and down.
If you haven’t done Declines in a while (or ever), start out light, because it’s going to feel weird those first couple of weeks. Eventually, though, you’ll be able to go even heavier than you did on the Flat Presses.
These are a favorite of Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, who suffered more joint and muscle pain in his competetive career than most of us will in a lifetime. If these are good enough for Dorian, than they should be good enough for us.
- CABLE CROSSOVERS
You probably thought I’d be recommending Incline Bench Presses or perhaps Hammer Strength Machine Presses. I would recommend those if my experience taught me otherwise. No, many lifters find those to aggravate the shoulder joints even more.
Instead, Cable Crossovers are what you want to add in here. They’re going to feel really good, especially after some heavy presses. Go for 20 nice, slow reps with light weights – really light weights. Pump the blood into those pecs with each rep, holding that peak contraction for a split second before slowly lowering the handles back to the starting position.