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Bench Pressing Causing Shoulder Pain

author image Hannah Mich
Since 2007 Hannah Mich has written e-newsletters and been published in the "Missouri Journal of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance." She has a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Truman State University and a Master of Education in applied kinesiology from the University of Minnesota.
Bench Pressing Causing Shoulder Pain
A man performing bench presses at the gym. Photo Credit: Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Bench pressing exercises your upper arm, chest and shoulder muscles, which attach around your shoulder. After bench pressing, these muscles may be fatigued and tight, leading to shoulder discomfort. Shoulder pain after bench pressing may also indicate an injury such as a muscle strain. Treatment includes rest, ice and over-the-counter pain medications. Continuing to bench press with a shoulder injury could lead to improper shoulder mechanics and further injury. Therefore, consult your physician if pain persists.

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Muscle Strain

Bench pressing a heavy weight or overtraining can lead to tight muscles, a muscle spasm and muscle strain, causing shoulder pain. A muscle strain is when your muscles such as your pectoralis or chest muscle tears due to overuse, or overexertion. Most tears occur where your muscle attaches to the tendon. Symptoms include shoulder pain, muscle weakness, joint stiffness and swelling. With a complete rupture, symptoms will be more severe, and you will have muscle deformity. Poor technique is a common underlying cause of muscle strain. Begin your lift with your wrists slightly wider than your shoulders, knuckles to the ceiling. Inhale as your lower the bar slowly until your upper arm is parallel to the floor. Avoid lifting more weight than you can control in the downward phase. Keep the bar directly above your chest as you push upward.

Tendinitis and Impingement Syndrome

Tendinitis is the inflammation and degeneration of tendons like your rotator cuff tendons surrounding your shoulder. Impingement syndrome is when your rotator cuff tendons become pinched, or compressed, causing shoulder pain. Tendinitis and impingement syndrome may also lead to bursitis, according to The Ohio State University Medical Center. Bursitis is the inflammation of your bursa sacs that are located around tendons to provide lubrication. Inflammation often occurs with overuse syndrome, when muscles are not given enough time to recover between workouts.

Additional Causes

Other possible causes of shoulder pain include nerve entrapment, torn cartilage, or a labral tear, arthritis and shoulder subluxation, which is when your shoulder temporarily pops out of place. A compressed or entrapped nerve such as your radial nerve will cause numbness and tingling around your shoulder and down your arm along with shoulder pain. Symptoms of a labral tear and arthritis include shoulder pain, catching or grinding with shoulder movement and joint stiffness. A sudden inability to move your shoulder and an audible pop as the shoulder goes in or out of socket indicates shoulder subluxation.

Risk Factors

Tight muscles can pull on your tendons and shoulders, causing excessive stress on your tendons and making them susceptible to injury. Muscle strength imbalances along with tight muscles can lead to poor posture like rounded shoulders, which puts your shoulder in a compromised position. Increasing your resistance too quickly, not warming up and neglecting lifts that strengthen your back muscles are common training errors that can also increase your risk of shoulder injuries and pain. Additional risk factors include your age, shoulder instability and a previous shoulder injury. Include stretching as a regular part of your workout program.


Rest, ice, wear a compression wrap and take over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen. For persistent pain and injury, your physician may recommend further treatment such as corticosteroid injections, physical therapy and surgery. A 2006 “Rheumatology” article warns, however, that using corticosteroid injections for tendinitis may lead to further tendon degeneration over time. Physical therapy may consist of modalities such as ultrasound, along with performing stretches and strengthening exercises to regain normal shoulder flexibility, strength and coordination.

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