Seeing people bench can be painful sometimes, literally, it hurts. Elbows flared, lack of a tightness in the upper back, bouncing it off their chest, “Kill me now God!”. The end result is usually pain in the front of the shoulder. It is not bench pressing that may be causing your pain but “how” you bench that causes you pain. With some of the younger athletes, I started experimenting the next exercise with our DB Bench Pressing and/or Push-ups. One of the most common errors I see with dumbbell benching and push-ups is the scapulae anteriorly tilting at the bottom of the press. This video demonstrates what I mean.
Anterior Tilt of the Scapula: This should not occur at any time during a bench or rowing movement.
The anterior tilting can happen from a variety of reasons…
- Tight Pec Minor: Always a smart idea to do some myofascial release with a lacrosse ball on the pecs before working out
- Scapular Instability: Not strengthening the upper back enough
- Not pulling the DB’s or bar down: bench band pull-apart exercise is great for this as it forces you to focus on pulling the band down to your chest.
- Having poor T-spine extension: incorporate T-spine Extension exercises in your warm-up or as another exercise to pair with your bench
- Dysfunctional upward rotation due to poor t-spine extensibility: get lower trap, serratus anterior, and upper trap firing to allow the scapula to posterior tilt as the arm lifts overhead
- Poor push-up form: if you allow the hips to sag on a push-up it will cause the scaps to tilt
All these possibilities should illustrate how important T-spine mobility, scapular stability, soft-tissue work, and activation exercises can help a injured or pain in the butt shoulder. This is one exercise that I stole from Joe Bonyai and have seen some great short-term effects with teaching athletes DB bench or push-ups.
- Set-up by holding the band at shoulder width
- Actively pull the band down (which will fire up the upper back), keeping elbows tucked at 45 degree angle
- As your pull down and slightly out, you should focus on pulling your shoulder blades down and back
- Incorporate 2-3 sets 10 reps between benching or use as part of warm-up