The Bench Press – Quick Read for Healthier Shoulders
By Lorne Goldenberg BPE, CSCS, CEP
The Bench Press is one of those all time, must have chest and shoulder development movements. It’s also one of those exercises that people tend to push past their limits with too much load andenc unsafe technique. Proper execution will go a long way to ensuring great gains and more importantly to be injury free. The key starts at the beginning with appropriate hand spacing. Forget any kind of idea that a super wide grip will get you better development, what it will get you is an unstable shoulder. Place your hands so that when you are in the low position, you have a 90-degree angle at your elbow. As you lower the weight to your chest in 3-4 seconds, bring it back up in a very slight arc so the bar ends up right over your eyes. Repeat for your prescribed number of reps.
A great variation of the bench press what I would call a Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press. By using dumbbells, you will take some stress off of your shoulder as the load will be less. Additionally, by pressing in a position where by your palms are facing each other for each rep, will result in your upper arm dropping down beside your rib cage, further reducing any stress on your shoulders.
Another great variation of the bench press is called the Off-Set Bench Press. It is called off-set as you will have 5-10 pounds more to one side. What this will result in is a massive recruitment of your core musculature, as your body attempts to stabilize the rotary force from the off-set of the weight. Technique is the same, but you must switch the off-set weight with each set to ensure even development. If you are performing this exercise correctly, I should be able to watch your core and shoulders and not be able to tell what side the extra weight is on.
The standing bar press is really a standing variation of single arm dumbbell press. Place an Olympic bar at the corner of the frame on a squat rack or against the wall and floor. When the bar is in the low position, it should be set so your hand is just at shoulder level, if you cannot get there, adjust the distance between you and the bar. Feet shoulder width apart, set your core, and press out to full extension. There should be no movement in your core, everything should be activated while your pecs, shoulder and triceps complete the movement. Check out this youtube video where I give a full coaching description of this variation.
Try out these variations, they will help your strength and the health of your shoulders!