Everyone knows that the bench press is a great upper body builder and is one of the staple exercises in most people’s training regiment.

If pain in the back of your shoulders is holding you back from performing this movement, you may be missing out on a lot of potential gains.

Why Do My Rear Delts Hurt When I Bench?

If you are using incorrect form, this is a huge contributor to rear delt pain during the bench press. Not warming up or having weak shoulders is another cause. If you have injured your shoulder, this can also be a factor.

1. You Aren’t Retracting Your Shoulders

Improper form is one of the main reasons leading to shoulder pain while benching. Keep your shoulder blades squeezed back while also pushing them down towards your backside.

This will protect your shoulder from bearing the load of all the weight and allow your chest to instead. It also keeps your body more compact, which allows you to generate more power.

To do so, think of your pinching your shoulders blades together as if you were trying to hold something in between them throughout the entire bench press. Make sure your shoulders don’t creep forward as you push the bar back up.

This will place unnecessary strain on your shoulders leading to pain. 

This also slightly arches your back, which is important because you don’t want to bench with a flat back. This will further push the shoulders back, protecting them from injury.

All the while increasing your strength output, leading to more muscle breakdown and growth.

2. You Aren’t Warming Up Properly

Stretching and warming up is very important as shoulder pain is very common while benching. Stretch out your shoulders and chest before your session. This ensures that the muscles are full of blood and aren’t tight.

It will also prevent against injury.

Dynamic stretches are great for increasing fluidity, mobility, and blood flow to the joints.

Make sure to also perform warm up sets with a lighter weight. This gets blood into your muscles and also will prepare you for the heavier sets.

Studies prove that low intensity warm-ups of 15 minutes help in improving 1 rep max strengths. Not warming up properly before a heavy session is one of the main causes of injury.

Foam rolling is a great way to prepare the muscles for a heavy bench session, while avoiding injury. It will increase blood flow to the muscles and restore motion. This will increase motion of your chest and shoulders, helping to prevent against injury.

For more information on how foam rolling works, see.

3. Your Shoulders Or Triceps Are Too Weak

Having weak shoulders may be the reason you’re experiencing pain. If you don’t train your shoulders enough, they will not be able to handle the weight of the heavy barbell during the bench press.

During pressing movements, you may experience shoulder pain if your rotator cuff muscles are weak. Train your shoulders more to help with this. Any type of shoulders press, lateral raises, and rear delt flys are great.

The overhead military barbell press is a great exercise for strengthening the entire shoulder, including the rear delts.

The triceps are very important as they finish the lockout portion of the bench press. The narrower your grip when benching, the more that your triceps are involved.

Try doing weighted dips, close grip bench press, and skull crushers to build tricep strength.

Having overall stronger muscles will allow you to bench press without any of them fatiguing and becoming injured.

4. You Aren’t Stacking Your Elbows Under The Bar

You want your elbows to be in line with your hands when you bench. This is fixed by adjusting your grip width on the bar.

Think of tucking your elbows when you bring the bar down, and trying not to let them flare out too much during the movement.

You may also want to consider your grip width. Certain people have less shoulder pain with a narrow grip, while some find a wider grip to feel more comfortable. Try both, and see which feels best for you.

The narrower the grip on the bar, the lower the bar should touch on your chest and will result in tucking your elbows in closer to your body.

A wider grip means the bar will touch higher up on the chest and the elbows will be less tucked in.

However, you should find less shoulder pain by thinking of tucking in your elbows.

Fixing your bar path will also reduce shoulder pain. After the bar touches your chest, push it up and back towards the rack. This is a more curved bar path that will place less stress on the shoulders.

5. You Have A Shoulder Injury

A strain on the rotator cuff muscles is a common cause of shoulder pain during the bench press. Once the rotator cuff is strained, shoulder mobility is limited.

The shoulder external rotation is a great stretch to fix this. It should also be done before you bench to reduce risk of injury.

Standing up straight, pinch both shoulders back slightly. With one arm grab either a cable, band, or lightweight plate. Turn your arm outwards so that your chest opens and your hand moves away from your body.

Wearing a shoulder brace while you workout is a good idea if you’re experiencing pain. A shoulder brace will immobilize the arm and shoulder, providing support and minimizing movement that can be dangerous.

They are usually worn by those after an injury to slowly get back into the gym. You won’t be able to do full range of motion on shoulder exercise due to the limited mobility. However, you can slowly start training your shoulder again without risking injury.

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If you feel pain and weakness, and see bruising or swelling you could have dislocated your shoulder. It is best to pause your training and visit a doctor if you think this is the cause of your pain.

A cartilage tear can happen from repeating the same motion over. The cartilage is the rubbery padding that protects your shoulder joint. If you cannot reach over your head without pain, or if your shoulder feels like its rubbing or grinding this may be the cause.

Surgery is often the treatment so it’s important to see a doctor if this is what you think the problem may be.

Shoulder impingement is the result of the rotator cuff rubbing between the humerus and the top outer edge of your shoulder. This will result in pain and irritation.

Rest, icing, anti-inflammatory medicine and physical therapy are the usual treatments. It is best to stop training and give it time to heal before resuming training. Pain and tenderness are the symptoms.

It is always best to see a doctor to get a physical examination and an x-ray so you can be sure exactly what is going on with your shoulder.

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