How To Bench Press Without Shoulder Pain (4 Mistakes You’re Probably Making)

Optimise your technique, protect your body.

Learn how to bench press without shoulder pain.

These tips from Jeremy Ethier will help you lift pain free!

How To Bench Press Without Shoulder Pain

“The bench press is one of the most effective exercises for developing and strengthening the upper body. However, despite its effectiveness, it’s also the one exercise that lifters seem to have the most trouble with; primarily due to shoulder pain when benching or after benching. And in many cases, this is simply a result of various tweaks that need to be made in your bench press form. In this video, I’ll go through exactly how to bench without pain and how to permanently avoid shoulder pain when benching.”

Reverse Grip Bench Press How To Bench Press Without Shoulder PainSource: Philip Myrtorp on Unsplash

Mistake 1 – How To Bench Press Without Shoulder Pain

“The first bench press form mistake people make that causes shoulder pain is failing to retract the shoulder blades throughout the press. Whenever we’re benching, we want to have our shoulder blades retracted or pinched together as if you were going to pinch a pencil between those blades. If we don’t have the shoulder blades retracted what actually tends to happen is the upper arm will round forward which can cause shoulder pain when benching.”

“So, what you want to do is before you press, depress your upper, and then pinch your shoulders blades together. Then, maintain this tightness by actively squeezing your shoulder blades together as you bench press, and avoid the mistake of opening up the shoulder blades and losing tightness at the bottom or as you push up.

Mistake 2 – How To Bench Press Without Shoulder Pain

“Another common mistake contributing to shoulder pain while bench pressing is benching with a completely flat back. Although most people won’t need an exaggerated arch as seen with powerlifters, you do want to ensure there’s some arch present between in your upper back.

And the reason for this is similar to what we saw with retracting your shoulder blades, as a slight arch in the upper back places the glenohumeral joint in an externally rotated, safer position.

male athlete chest workouts How To Bench Press Without Shoulder Pain

“But to properly implement this while avoiding injury, note that you’re not simply arching your lower back. What you want to do is arch your upper back instead by retracting your shoulder blades as we previously discussed, and then raise your chest up towards the ceiling which will naturally create space between your back and the bench which you then want to maintain as a solid base of support for your press.”

Mistake 3 – How To Bench Press Without Shoulder Pain

“Next, to bench press without pain, you need to avoid the mistake of touching the bar too high on your chest while excessively flaring the elbows out at a 90 degree angle and pressing the bar straight up and down.”

“This puts the shoulder in an internally rotated position and can thus cause pain when benching. So what you want to do is instead realize that the bar path of your bench press shouldn’t be straight up and down. It should actually start above your shoulder, come down to around the level of your sternum or nipple height and then curve diagonally back towards the starting point. And to achieve this without harming your shoulders, you need to tuck your elbows to roughly a 75-degree angle such that your elbows remain closer to the body and more or less directly under the bar throughout each rep. This will not only lead to a safer press, but a stronger one as well.”

Mistake 4 – How To Bench Press Without Shoulder Pain

“Lastly, avoid the bench press form mistake of not having your elbows stacked under the bar. This creates unnecessary torque on the shoulder joint which can then cause shoulder pain. If your elbows are unaligned when viewed from the front or back, then the problem is likely with your grip width that needs adjusting.”

Fitness benchmarks Biggest Bench Press Mistakes to AvoidSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

“If your elbows are unaligned when viewed from the side, then it’s likely that you’re overtucking your elbows too close to your sides when you press. So, to fix this, you simply want to adjust the angle of your elbow during the press by flaring them out a little more such that they remain relatively underneath the bar.”

Video – How To Bench Press Without Shoulder Pain

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Chest Muscles -How To Bench Press Without Shoulder Pain

These are the main muscles that make up the chest.

Pectoralis Major

The pectoralis major is the largest of the chest muscles, and it’s responsible for flexing your arm at the elbow. It’s a thick, triangular muscle that covers the upper chest and clavicle. Its origin is from each side of the sternum (breastbone), but it also attaches to various ribs—seven on each side—along its way down to its insertion point on your humerus (upper arm bone).

The pectoralis major has two heads: sternocostalis and clavicularis. The sternocostalis head is located deep within your armpit; this part stretches across your back toward your spine as it runs away from where you normally feel pain when someone punches you in that area. The clavicular head sits just above this deeper layer; together they form one large sheet over much of your upper body.

Pectoralis Minor

The pectoralis minor is a small muscle located underneath the pectoralis major, which helps to move your shoulder blade forward and downward. It also helps to rotate your shoulder blade inward.

Serratus Anterior

The serratus anterior is a muscle that runs from the top of your rib cage to your shoulder blade. It assists with shoulder stabilization and helps with arm movements. The serratus anterior is used in exercises like bench press, pull-ups, push-ups and dips.


The subclavius muscle is a small, triangular muscle that runs from the top of your collarbone to the first rib. It helps lift your clavicle (collarbone) as you inhale and exhale, but it can be injured if you lift heavy objects with your arms extended.


If you’re looking to build strength in your chest, the bench press is a great place to start.

The chest muscles are a large and important part of your upper body, so it’s essential that they’re given adequate attention.

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