There is no denying that the bench press is the most popular exercise – walk into a gym at 5 o’clock on a Monday (aka International Chest Day) and try to find an open bench. You can’t.
Even though it is put on a pedestal like no other exercise, the bench press is equally infamous for wrecking your shoulders. Don’t let this scare you into cutting it out of your routine altogether, though. Just make sure to avoid these costly mistakes.
Elbows flared out.
If your elbows flare out to 90° (perpendicular to your torso) at the bottom of your bench, you are compromising the health of your shoulders, putting the rotator cuff in a position where it is susceptible to injury. Lower the bar to your mid-chest and try bending it in half; this should help your shoulders in the optimal range of 75°.
Hands too wide.
If you bench with a grip that is too wide, your elbows will be more likely to flare out. Many people prefer to use very wide grips because it shortens the range of motion, allowing them to lift more weight. Save your shoulders by narrowing your grip to just wider than shoulder-width, this will also help engage your triceps.
Not engaging the shoulders.
As the bar lowers to your chest and your elbows begin to point to the floor, it is natural for our shoulders to begin to roll forward. When this happens, tension is moves from the muscle to the tendons, which is something we don’t want. Combat this by making a conscious effort to squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your shoulders to your toes and away from your ears. Keep this position throughout your entire set.
Not warming up.
Your rotator cuff is comprised of four relatively small muscles in your shoulders, but they have a big impact on your benching ability. If you jump right into a heavy set without warming up these muscles, you asking for injury. Click here to learn how to properly warm up your shoulders before pressing exercises.
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