One time I asked Dr. James Andrews who is one of the most renown surgeons in the world the following question…
What is the most common injury you see that is preventable for the most part?
We discussed a few different things but his first answer was torn pectoral muscles from bench press. There are many factors that surround this but one of the most obvious I see is not performing the exercises correctly. Here is a quick and dirty run down.
If your elbows are flared out the entire time then you are using more pec but you are also putting your shoulders in danger. Think about it. Would you throw a punch like that? Would you push someone like that? Of course not. It is an unnatural movement that puts the shoulder in an unstable situation. You should be tight on the bench and the elbows allowed to come in perhaps rotate out at the top. This means the bar will hit below the pecs for most people.
Tightness is key. Tightness protects. Joints should be stable when lifting. Bench press isn’t a “pec isolation exercises”. It is a push with the entire upper body. Most of the stress being on the tris, pecs, and shoulders. Pecs are only part of the picture. There is an old powerlifting saying that if you want a bigger bench then gain weight and work your tri’s. No one mentions pecs.
Of course if you are benching hard, work your upper back just as hard. Keep the balance.
Common questions and answers.
Q: But benching that way doesn’t work my pecs as good.
A: Find another exercises for your pecs if you want to feel them more.
Q: I am not as strong benching like that.
A: Because you have benched wrong for a long time and have weak tris and delts compared to your chest. Start over, get strong, stay healthy.
Q: My chest feels funny when I do that like something is wrong.
A: You are probably a female with implants placed under the muscle. Consult with your doctor about exercises you can and can’t do. Also make sure you break up the scar tissue from your surgery.
Q: My shoulders hurt when I bench.
A: Rotator cuff exercises with correct form before every workout. Make sure you have good shoulder range of motion. You may have bicep tendonitis because you bench and curl too much.
Q: Can you lay out the steps on how to set up and bench correctly?
A: Not now. I am bored.