Talk to a lifter with shoulder discomfort and he’ll likely blame the barbell bench press. With 4 simple changes to your form, you’ll spare your shoulders and push your lifts into PR territory, says Eric Cressey of Cressey Sports Performance.
1/Engage Your Legs – The bench press is a total body exercise, Cressey says. The more work you do with your lower body, the less strain your shoulders will endure. Spread your feet wide when you set up, and drive your feet down into the floor. Start each rep by pushing through your feet to help move the bar off your chest.
2/Hug the Bench – Before you even touch the bar, pull your shoulder blades together and down, as if you’re “hugging” the bench with your shoulders. Keep your shoulders in this position throughout the exercise in order to provide yourself with a stable base and a powerful platform to press from.
3/Narrow Your Grip – A wider grip limits your range of motion but also leaves your shoulders in a more vulnerable position. Narrow your grip so it’s exactly at shoulder width, Cressey says. As you remove the bar, don’t lose your shoulder positioning.
4/Pull Before You Push – Letting the bar drop to your chest and bounce off your sternum is a surefire way to get hurt. Instead, pull the bar to your chest by flexing your upper-back muscles. That raises your chest higher and limits your range of motion, says Cressey. Then push yourself away from the bar, driving your upper back into the bench.