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Thread: Bench substitute for dude with shoulder problems

  1. #1
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    Bench substitute for dude with shoulder problems

    Hello,

    In the past, whenever I tried to bench press it would be OK for a few weeks, and then I would get this pain in the front of my shoulders that would gradually get worse as I increased the weight. The right shoulder was always worst, but I felt it in both of them.

    I tried a couple of variations, like close grip bench and dips, but the result was the same. I actually gave up and thought I could never train this type of movement.

    Then I read up on bench press technique, shoulder rehab exercises, and different bench accessory exercises. One thing I realized is that strong benchers have a very limited ROM compared to me. You see, I'm a tall guy with long limbs; my wingspan is about 190 cm. In addition to that I'm pretty skinny with a small chest. This means that my elbows go way back below the bench when I press. Strong benchers though have huge chests and short arms; I noticed their elbows usually don't go below the bench at the bottom of the lift. I also read that this was recommended in this article by Dave Tate, and in another non-english article.

    Lately I have been floor pressing with dumbbells to ensure my elbows don't go to far down. I also keep my elbows very close to my body, as this feels more safe for my shoulders. I try to do it similar to this guy.This has worked great! I have now been lifting at my limit for many weeks without problems. I wanted to ask you guys though, if you think this is an OK bench substitute? Perhaps it would have been better to use a barbell, but my gym doesn't really have any convenient setup where I could floor press with a barbell. I usually train alone, otherwise I guess I could have someone deadlift the barbell into my hands.

    I haven't tried this, but I guess I could press on a normal bench and just stop the movement when my elbows are in level with the bench?

    I don't care about being able to bench press a high number. I just want a good exercise and get stronger in general.

    What do you guys think?
    Last edited by NoMoreFatChix; 12-11-2010 at 08:49 AM.

  2. #2
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    Ok, heres the deal..... If you aren't competing in powerlifting or anything, then you dont need to worry quite as much about full ROM as a necessity.

    Normally I always suggest people stick with full ROM bench, unless they have some issue. MOST people in the gym these days are doing 1/4-1/2 reps on bench and squats, and its mainly because their egos take over and they want to lift more than they should be lifting. Just dont make that mistake.

    But I have a friend like you. He's tall, with a very small chest, and for him to touch the bar to his chest is excessive on the ROM.

    Floor press is good, but you probably dont want to do it exclusively.

    Stopping when your elbows are at 90 deg. on regular bench might work, but I think its a bad idea. Consistancy will be a problem, and as you lift heavier, your ROM will probably shorten.

    Really, if you are working out alone, you shouldn't be barbell benching heavy anyways, but what I would do in your case, is get an Airex pad, (the blue foam pads) if your gym has them and bench with it on your chest. This will shorten your ROM by about 3" and you can bring the bar to the same spot each time.

    Hope this gives you some ideas. The main thing, is dont do things that hurt, and figure out ways to train without pain.

  3. #3
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    I have long arms as well. I bench VERY LITTLE these days. If I do, I use a nice wide grip and it feels pretty good for the most part. I don't feel that worked my pecs enough so I switched to DB incline bench and that is even better for me. I also do db flies (light weight) and also machine flies (good amount of weight). How is your shoulder workouts? What kind of exercises do you do for shoulders?

    Just remember, some people aren't made to be benchers, so don't be discouraged if you can't do them well. There are plenty of alts to the flat bench that are just as good if not better for shoulder health.

  4. #4
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    Dan:

    If I were to do barbell bench I would ask someone to spot me. This is OK because there would always be several people benching right next to me. Asking someone to come across the gym to deadlift the bar into my floor press is slightly more of a hassle though.

    My gym don't have those pads, but just placing something suitable on my chest would do the trick, right? Sounds like a good idea.

    af92:

    Why don't you bench much?

    Interesting you use a wide grip. I feel a close grip is a MUST to save my shoulders; I need to keep my elbows as close to my body as possible.

    I will try the incline bench and see how that feels. I will have to use dumbbells though (like you), as my gym don't have any inclined benches with barbell rack.

    About my shoulder wo: I'm doing the last program from the novice section of Practical Programming by Mark Rippetoe. If you don't know it, it's just a slight modification of the Starting Strength template. This means my only other direct shoulder exercise is standing barbell presses. Interestingly, I never had any problems with these. I could do them even when my shoulders were ****ed up from bench/dips earlier this fall.

    In addition, I do this (LYTP) at the beginning of every WO, and I sporadically do wall slides and shoulder dislocates to help with flexibility. I feel that all this stuff helps, but I'm pretty convinced the main thing that saves my shoulders is the limitd ROM on the flat pressing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NoMoreFatChix View Post

    af92:

    Why don't you bench much?

    Interesting you use a wide grip. I feel a close grip is a MUST to save my shoulders; I need to keep my elbows as close to my body as possible.

    I will try the incline bench and see how that feels. I will have to use dumbbells though (like you), as my gym don't have any inclined benches with barbell rack.

    About my shoulder wo: I'm doing the last program from the novice section of Practical Programming by Mark Rippetoe. If you don't know it, it's just a slight modification of the Starting Strength template. This means my only other direct shoulder exercise is standing barbell presses. Interestingly, I never had any problems with these. I could do them even when my shoulders were ****ed up from bench/dips earlier this fall.

    In addition, I do this (LYTP) at the beginning of every WO, and I sporadically do wall slides and shoulder dislocates to help with flexibility. I feel that all this stuff helps, but I'm pretty convinced the main thing that saves my shoulders is the limitd ROM on the flat pressing.

    I don't need to bench, since its not a good exercise for me and my chest gets a better workout (and has grown) with the others I've mentioned. I, like you, had shoulder issues (rotator cuff) and I did specific exercises to strengthen that area. Ever since then, I still did some great flat benching and I was liking it. I just didn't get the oomph in my chest that I felt I should be. I tried some other stuff and I gotta tell ya, I won't ever go back to flat bench.

    Some people can't do certain exercises because of anatomy issues and they are just going to cause future problems doing something that doesn't help. There are many other alts to flat BB bench and it isn't the end-all exercise for me. Just my .02 cents.

    The reason I did wide grip was because of my arm length and leverage issues with that. I never felt that medium was doing much and the wide felt "better" for me.

  6. #6
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    Ya you could use anything as long as it will stay in place and be safe....

    Maybe a rolled up towel or a piece of high density styrafoam would work well. It would be better if you had a way to strap/stick it to your chest so it doesn't move, but I just balance a foam pad on there and it seems to work.

  7. #7
    Father of Three Bosch232's Avatar
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    I'm working through a shoulder impingement injury right now, and it's hugely discouraging. It affects all of my pressing movements. I have found that doing pressing movements with my palms facing each other causes no discomfort. I've resorted to the biangular chest press machine in our gym, using the palms-facing-each-other grip. I hate using the gynecology machines, but my shoulder just won't allow for benching, at least not right now.

    Same with shoulder press: I can do dumbells with palms facing each other for OH press, but you put a straight bar in my hands, and it's game over. Your mileage may vary.
    Last edited by Bosch232; 12-12-2010 at 07:47 AM.
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    Bosch232: That sucks I'm really grateful I can do the dumbbell floor press at least. I hope you get better!
    Last edited by NoMoreFatChix; 12-12-2010 at 06:38 AM.

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    Senior Member Raleighwood's Avatar
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    As bosch mentioned, neutral grip DB presses seem to do the trick.

    Work on your scapular mobility and stability and you may be able to clear up your shoulder problems. Proper shrugs, scapular push ups, face pulls, overhead shrugs, shoulder dislocates, band pull downs; all seem to help a lot
    Last edited by Raleighwood; 12-12-2010 at 10:19 AM.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raleighwood View Post
    As bosch mentioned, neutral grip DB presses seem to do the trick.

    Work on your scapular mobility and stability and you may be able to clear up your shoulder problems. Proper shrugs, scapular push ups, face pulls, overhead shrugs, shoulder dislocates, band pull downs; all seem to help a lot
    This is great advise.

    I would also take a look at your warm up. Before I bench I have to warm up my entire upper body, that includes my upper back. If I don't do this, it's extremely uncomfortable. .
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  11. #11
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Let's see a video of you benching. I think the issue is form related.


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  12. #12
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    Raleighwood: Thanks!

    Cards: I always do squats first so my body feels very warm in general. The only direct upper body warmup I do is the LYTP exercises I posted a link to above. I also warm up on the pressing movement itself by doing three or four sets with gradually increasing weights. Are you suggesting I should do something more; maybe a set of pull-ups? Or maybe a row machine? I'll try it out.

    Chris: I will try to make a video. I probably won't be able to do this until after Christmas though.
    Last edited by NoMoreFatChix; 12-14-2010 at 06:52 AM.

  13. #13
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    My shoulder have always done the same thing, i would quite after a few month becasue of the pain, The things that have helped are icing after i bench, and benching off a 2 board, 2 pieces of 2x6. tuck elbows, you need to really stay in controll and keep tight and tucked, or your going to pay someday as i am now.

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