1. Reduce the amplitude

It is quite possible that problems (in the shoulder girdle) are caused by excessive range of motion. You don’t have to do away with the horizontal bench press at all, just reduce the amplitude.

The presses can be combined in a programme with alternating high and medium intensity workouts:

Heavy bench press day – approaches of 3-5 repetitions in a frame. These are good because you don’t have to worry about controlling negativity, you can simply lower the bar to the limiters; instead, you focus on the positive phase, developing maximal strength with a minimum of accumulated fatigue (and delayed post-training pain),
On ‘easy’ days, bench press a barbell or dumbbells from the floor, working in a range of 10-15 repetitions. I prefer dumbbells because they allow you to find the most comfortable position for your shoulder and elbow joints.

2. wrap the bar

Most jocks only use bar wraps for grip training – in pulls or farmer’s walks. Few are aware of the useful effect on the bench press as well.

While in a standard barbell press the bar presses a small part of the palm, the use of a grip or special thick bars distributes the weight over a larger area, which is easier for the hand itself and all the joints involved – wrist, elbow, shoulder. No thanks.

3. Try a neutral grip

A pronated grip (palms to feet) would bring no problems to a spherical lifter in a vacuum of the ideal world, but in our reality it hurts shoulders.

Look for a barbell in your gym with transverse handles:

At first, your bench press results might go down as your wrists need to get used to the unexpected twist, but then, trust me, you’ll always be checking every new club for such a barbell as it gets rid of shoulder pain.

4. Bring your arms together, not apart

You will often find the advice to ‘pull the bar apart’ in a bench press, by forcefully spreading the arms apart to properly engage the upper back muscles. But activating the rear surface muscles is more about developing them (and the exercises for them). If your back is weakly activated, work on it with separate pulls, there is no need to spoil the bench press.

Horizontal press should first of all load pectorals and synergists (front deltoids), so bring arms together in bench press, but not spread them.

You lift your chest in hand motions (with dumbbells, blocks or in butterfly trainers), not thrusts. In the bench press you must do it in the same way.

5. Pauses must be devoted to prophylaxis

You can also work on your back muscles, which are crucial for the health of your shoulder joint, in between your bench presses.

Start your chest workout with light lower and upper block pulls, arm extensions and harness stretches. These will help you activate your upper back muscles on the bench press.

Fill your rest intervals with shoulder mobility exercises:


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