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  • Bench Press grip for long-term shoulder health?

    I am struggling with my bench press above others lifts, and thought I'd ask this here rather than the StartingStrength.com forums since the group is more diverse and long-term health seems to be more of a priority here over 12-week number gains.

    I've been stuck at a bench press of #150lbs for 3 sets of 5 for a while now, which is pathetically low compared to my other lifts (my overhead press isn't the greatest either at 120lbs, but it is relatively higher). The biggest struggle I have is that I have freakishly long arms. Like 82" arm span orangutan freakish. When benching, to get my arms in the preferred SS angle I have to take a grip just outside of the rings, maybe even further, and it is KILLING my shoulders. I even pin them back and under me (with the curved back position), but they still hurt. I was a varsity swimmer for over 7 years and the mileage with poor uncorrected form has left my shoulders in a state that they roll around in the socket, making a gross popping/grinding noise. This form keeps my elbows pointed out past 45 degrees (say 75) from my chest, and this might be the issue. Despite the pain it has been causing, it did temporarily improve my bench numbers.

    Before I was using the wider grip, I was using what I was told was a too narrow grip with my pinky just inside the rings. I am able to keep my forearms at 90 degrees if I bring my elbows in tucked towards my body (like a military style pushup.) The problem is, this appears to be a less advantageous angle and creates a much larger ROM, making progression harder.

    I have been microloading my bench, so I really think the problem has been finding an advantageous angle that also will allow me to still bench in 20+ years when I am in my 40's and hopefully no longer suffer shoulder issues.

    Any tips or tricks I should try?

  • #2
    Add in some reverse grips?

    T NATION | Master the Reverse-Grip Bench Press

    Comment


    • #3
      don't you weight like 220 or something? how many pushups can you do? i'm wondering if at this point in time, it might be more advantageous to work on pushup variations. way less stressful on the shoulder joints

      Comment


      • #4
        What is the arm angle when you bench? Have someone take a picture/video of you from the top while benching. I would guess you're flaring your elbows out when pressing the weight up.

        Comment


        • #5
          I don't understand why someone would struggle so much with a certain exercise yet continue to do it ?

          My advice is ' Stop Benching ', it is an okay exercise if it fits a persons frame but it is by no means a miracle worker. There are other exercises that work the pec muscles far better and cause far less damage to the shoulder structure.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by OldSchhool View Post
            I don't understand why someone would struggle so much with a certain exercise yet continue to do it ?

            My advice is ' Stop Benching ', it is an okay exercise if it fits a persons frame but it is by no means a miracle worker. There are other exercises that work the pec muscles far better and cause far less damage to the shoulder structure.
            There's a difference between someone being unable to bench due to an actual pathology vs. incorrect form causing pain.

            Also, bench is the undisputed king of chesticles. What exercise will produce the strength equivalent of a 400lb bench press?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by not on the rug View Post
              don't you weight like 220 or something? how many pushups can you do? i'm wondering if at this point in time, it might be more advantageous to work on pushup variations. way less stressful on the shoulder joints
              Yes I do. I am terrible at pushups as well, I can do about 10 rough pushups in a row (maybe 5 clean/slow ones). I've never advanced very quickly with pushups prior to benching, I was using Convict Conditioning prior to SS and was stuck at just a few. Bringing my bench up +50lbs did more for my pushup totals then all of the incline ones I did, while at the same time I gained nearly 30lbs as my squats (approaching 275lbs) and deads (315lbs) quickly out paced the upper body gains. Rippetoe had suggested that the quickest to increase your pushups is through bench, but maybe I should consider re-adding pushups in to the routine.

              Originally posted by quikky View Post
              What is the arm angle when you bench? Have someone take a picture/video of you from the top while benching. I would guess you're flaring your elbows out when pressing the weight up.
              This is a over a month ago when I switched to a wider grip. Not a perfect 360 degree angle, but a decent indicator of what I am doing. Bench: 3x5 at 135lbs form check - YouTube

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by OldSchhool View Post
                I don't understand why someone would struggle so much with a certain exercise yet continue to do it ?

                My advice is ' Stop Benching ', it is an okay exercise if it fits a persons frame but it is by no means a miracle worker. There are other exercises that work the pec muscles far better and cause far less damage to the shoulder structure.
                i was stoked to read this ^^ rippetoe is a smart guy, with some really detailed writings on how to do exercises. it stops there though. his totally macho, 'you must do this or else' attitudes get obnoxious, and are only exceeded by those that comment on his forums.

                the bench press has always bothered my shoulders and will always bother them. so i just don't do it. and everything's still okay!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dickson View Post
                  This is a over a month ago when I switched to a wider grip. Not a perfect 360 degree angle, but a decent indicator of what I am doing. Bench: 3x5 at 135lbs form check - YouTube
                  Take what I am about to say with a grain of salt, but here's what I see:

                  If you pause the video at the bottom of the bench, when the bar is touching your chest, you can see a few things. One, the angle between your forearm and the ground, which should ideally be perpendicular, is actually past 90 degrees. So instead of the forearm/head looking like this:

                  | o |

                  It looks more like this (of course not as exaggerated):

                  \ o /

                  This suggest that your grip is indeed too wide.

                  The second point, which supports the first one, is that once you start driving the bar up, you can notice that your elbows flare out more to the side, and position the forearm closer to perpendicular. This make sense, because that creates the most efficient force transfer to the bar. However, this flare out, though a bit hard to say from the video angle, is indeed causing your humerus to be close to perpendicular to your body, which is something we definitely want to avoid to prevent shoulder impingement.

                  My suggestion would be to to bring your arms closer together, and focus on keeping your elbow movement tight, i.e. not letting your elbows flare out once the ascent begins. I think you can also use a tighter shoulder blade tuck and back extension, but it is hard to tell from the video.

                  Hope this helps.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dickson View Post
                    Yes I do. I am terrible at pushups as well, I can do about 10 rough pushups in a row (maybe 5 clean/slow ones). I've never advanced very quickly with pushups prior to benching, I was using Convict Conditioning prior to SS and was stuck at just a few. Bringing my bench up +50lbs did more for my pushup totals then all of the incline ones I did, while at the same time I gained nearly 30lbs as my squats (approaching 275lbs) and deads (315lbs) quickly out paced the upper body gains. Rippetoe had suggested that the quickest to increase your pushups is through bench, but maybe I should consider re-adding pushups in to the routine.
                    That's completly nonsense, did he really say that??? The best way to increase push-ups is to do push-ups and progress on them! Push-ups is an excellent exercise, and most people would do far better by starting doing push-ups for a while before going to the bench.

                    Decline bench press is more easy on the shoulders, and a "false grip" may also save shoulders, but be very careful to not drop the weight if trying that! Also, dumbbells and machines can replace the bar, nobody "must" do a barbell bench press...
                    "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                    - Schopenhauer

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by quikky View Post
                      Take what I am about to say with a grain of salt, but here's what I see:

                      If you pause the video at the bottom of the bench, when the bar is touching your chest, you can see a few things. One, the angle between your forearm and the ground, which should ideally be perpendicular, is actually past 90 degrees. So instead of the forearm/head looking like this:

                      | o |

                      It looks more like this (of course not as exaggerated):

                      \ o /

                      This suggest that your grip is indeed too wide.

                      The second point, which supports the first one, is that once you start driving the bar up, you can notice that your elbows flare out more to the side, and position the forearm closer to perpendicular. This make sense, because that creates the most efficient force transfer to the bar. However, this flare out, though a bit hard to say from the video angle, is indeed causing your humerus to be close to perpendicular to your body, which is something we definitely want to avoid to prevent shoulder impingement.

                      My suggestion would be to to bring your arms closer together, and focus on keeping your elbow movement tight, i.e. not letting your elbows flare out once the ascent begins. I think you can also use a tighter shoulder blade tuck and back extension, but it is hard to tell from the video.

                      Hope this helps.
                      I agree with this. if you are going to continue with bench pressing, maybe try to watch some youtube videos from rip or from the diesel crew youtube channel. smitty has a few good ones up there. something to think about while benching is the idea of actually trying to bend the bar. someone else might think this is bad advice, but when you are focusing on bending the bar, elbows and forearms just seem to naturally go where they belong. at least they do for me.

                      perhaps some pushups are just what you need. maybe work on those for a while instead.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dickson View Post
                        Yes I do. I am terrible at pushups as well, I can do about 10 rough pushups in a row (maybe 5 clean/slow ones). I've never advanced very quickly with pushups prior to benching, I was using Convict Conditioning prior to SS and was stuck at just a few. Bringing my bench up +50lbs did more for my pushup totals then all of the incline ones I did, while at the same time I gained nearly 30lbs as my squats (approaching 275lbs) and deads (315lbs) quickly out paced the upper body gains. Rippetoe had suggested that the quickest to increase your pushups is through bench, but maybe I should consider re-adding pushups in to the routine.



                        This is a over a month ago when I switched to a wider grip. Not a perfect 360 degree angle, but a decent indicator of what I am doing. Bench: 3x5 at 135lbs form check - YouTube
                        Your bar placement is too high so you're using a high percentage of anterior deltoid. When you come down to the bottom position the bar should be across your sternum vs mid chest to upper chest. This is especially true when you have long levers (arms) like you do. Your upper arm should be at a 45 degree angle which will also help with shoulder issues. You can also try neutral grip dumb bell press from a bench of from the floor as well. These will help with tricep strength.

                        Also if you want to get your chest press up you have to build your secondary muscles. So tricep work is another way to increase your chest press.

                        Also you're not pinching your shoulder blades together hard enough. Use the inside of the uprights on the bench and push your hands into them to really get a good pinch and keep the pinch through the whole movement and all reps. It takes a bit of practice but you'll get there.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mr. Anthony View Post
                          Exactly what I was going to say. I have never had shoulder/cuff problems with benching, but the reverse grip is a great change up while allowing you to make progress.
                          People too weak to follow their own dreams will always try to discourage others.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by quikky View Post
                            Take what I am about to say with a grain of salt, but here's what I see:

                            If you pause the video at the bottom of the bench, when the bar is touching your chest, you can see a few things. One, the angle between your forearm and the ground, which should ideally be perpendicular, is actually past 90 degrees. So instead of the forearm/head looking like this:

                            | o |

                            It looks more like this (of course not as exaggerated):

                            \ o /

                            This suggest that your grip is indeed too wide.

                            The second point, which supports the first one, is that once you start driving the bar up, you can notice that your elbows flare out more to the side, and position the forearm closer to perpendicular. This make sense, because that creates the most efficient force transfer to the bar. However, this flare out, though a bit hard to say from the video angle, is indeed causing your humerus to be close to perpendicular to your body, which is something we definitely want to avoid to prevent shoulder impingement.

                            My suggestion would be to to bring your arms closer together, and focus on keeping your elbow movement tight, i.e. not letting your elbows flare out once the ascent begins. I think you can also use a tighter shoulder blade tuck and back extension, but it is hard to tell from the video.

                            Hope this helps.
                            That is perfectly helpful, and makes sense. I think I am going to try a much narrower and tighter bench with elbows tucked, even if it takes some of the load off to work on protecting the shoulders. This video was a bit looser of a shoulder tuck, I wasn't quite near max effort.

                            Originally posted by Gorbag View Post
                            That's completly nonsense, did he really say that??? The best way to increase push-ups is to do push-ups and progress on them! Push-ups is an excellent exercise, and most people would do far better by starting doing push-ups for a while before going to the bench.

                            Decline bench press is more easy on the shoulders, and a "false grip" may also save shoulders, but be very careful to not drop the weight if trying that! Also, dumbbells and machines can replace the bar, nobody "must" do a barbell bench press...
                            I definitely asked for that one. I am not trying to spread his gospel, but his opinion is that for someone such as myself, BP will be superior to the pushup in getting stronger in the upperbody. I am not sure if it due to poor programming on my part or something else, but low rep bodyweight exercises have just been less effective then barbell training for getting stronger.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Dickson, I would also try to find someone to help you un-rack the bar during your work sets.

                              Comment

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