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Shoulder Pain While Barbell BACK Squatting and Bench Pressing

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  • Shoulder Pain While Barbell BACK Squatting and Bench Pressing

    Hello Everyone,

    I have recently began strength training, and have been taking it seriously. However, I keep getting some left shoulder pain while bench presssing. I feel the pain during the eccentric portion of the lift. It originates at the front of my left shoulder, extends down my Bicep, and worsens as the bar gets closer to my chest. I don't feel this pain at all when dealing with lighter weight (under 140lbs). This pain also happens when doing pendlay Rows. As I Row the bar closer and closer to my chest I feel the pain as well. The pain isn't significant. If I had to rate the pain on scale out of 10. I would say it's at most a 2. I also feel no pain doing any other pressing variations, even Overhead Presses (maybe because the weight is much lighter?). However, squatting with a Barbell on my back feels awful. No matter how high I keep the bar on my back, or how wide I keep my hands, securing the bar on my back just hurts badly. However, It is much worse the lower I keep the bar and the closer my hands are. For now, I've just been doing front loaded Squats. If I had to rate the shoulder pain for Barbell back squats, I'd give it a 5-7 depending on how high or low I keep the bar and how close my hands are.

    To give some background. My left shoulder isn't the best as I've hurt it on a chest Press machine in the past when I was younger (18 or so). I'm 23 years old now, and my shoulder has improved a lot, other than the pain I'm currently experiencing.

    I have been doing my best to maintaim good technique on all my lifts, and have been using a standard Barbell.


    My questions are as follows:

    1) Should I keep continuing to bench press if the pain isn't significant. My strength has been going up, but I'm worried I'm going to make it worse if I keep going up in weight?

    2) Any specific exercises I can do to get rid of the pain all together? I've been doing a lot of band pull aparts, facepulls, int/ext Rotations, etc. to warmup my shoulders which does seem to help.

    3) What would you guys recommend I do for Barbell back squatting as I'm at loss there. It seems nothing I do helps my shoulder except avoiding barbell back squats all together.

    4) Would it be worth it to do a close grip bench press or floor press to get rid of the pain, or perhaps would using a Swiss bar help?


    Thank you all in advance.


    Ben








  • #2
    Hi Ben,

    I think it's awesome that you decided to start strength training and I'm sorry to hear about this shoulder issue you've been dealing with. Before I dive into your questions, I would recommend reading through this article as a starting point to help you navigate your training moving forward. To your questions:

    1) Should I keep continuing to bench press if the pain isn't significant. My strength has been going up, but I'm worried I'm going to make it worse if I keep going up in weight?

    Great question. Assuming your goal is to keep gaining strength on the bench press over time, you can absolutely continue to bench press. If your goal was simply to increase hypertrophy and you never really liked the barbell bench press in the first place, there are plenty of other movements you could choose from here to still reach your goal. With all that said, the article I sent over outlines some potential modifications you could make in your training as you're working through this shoulder issue. For example, you could start out working in the 6-10 rep range with a 3-1-0 (3s on the way down, 1s pause on the chest) as a means to keep effort high while keeping overall load on the bar relatively low. In other words, the higher rep range and slower tempo will naturally limit the amount of load on the bar while still allowing you to get some productive training in. Over time I would expect your load tolerance to improve (symptoms at 160lbs instead of 140lbs for example) as you gradually progress week to week. The last piece of this is using RPE in your training as a means to regulate intensity. Traditionally we anchor RPE to reps in reserve, meaning RPE 8 would be 2 reps away from failure. In the context of symptoms, I would recommend anchoring RPE 10 to your tolerable threshold for symptoms. Practically speaking, this just means you'll be more conservative with load selection as you look to find your 'entry point' back into training the bench press.

    2) Any specific exercises I can do to get rid of the pain all together? I've been doing a lot of band pull aparts, facepulls, int/ext Rotations, etc. to warmup my shoulders which does seem to help.

    Unfortunately there are no 'magic bullet' type exercises that can rid your shoulder pain forever. With that said, including some isolation type movements tends to be beneficial here. Based on the location of symptoms you're describing in the front of your shoulder and down your biceps, something like a preacher curl (slow and controlled tempo, 2-3 sets x 10-15 reps @ RPE 8) prior to benching could be helpful to both increase capacity in your shoulder and to serve as a warmup that should allow you to train with less symptoms.

    3) What would you guys recommend I do for Barbell back squatting as I'm at loss there. It seems nothing I do helps my shoulder except avoiding barbell back squats all together.

    Similar to the bench press, I would recommend modifying the loading through the use of higher rep ranges and/or tempo and continuing to experiment with different bar positions, grip widths, etc. If you have access to a safety bar, that would also be a good option while you work around this shoulder issue. Front squats would work too. Without knowing much about your current programming and seeing how you execute the back squat, it's difficult to answer this one precisely.

    4) Would it be worth it to do a close grip bench press or floor press to get rid of the pain, or perhaps would using a Swiss bar help?

    If any of those variations allows you to press with less symptoms, I think that is totally reasonable. If the grip width you're currently using is the strongest, I would recommend some of the strategies outlined above to ease back into heavier loads and perhaps selecting a more tolerable variation (close grip, floor press, dumbbell bench, etc.) on the backend to get some extra volume in.

    Hope that helps. If you would like more individualized guidance, we do offer remote consultations where we can talk through your specific situation and provide you with more concrete training recommendations and rehab programming if you think that would be beneficial. You can submit an inquiry here

    -Charlie

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    • #3
      Thank you for the response Charlie. The bicep curl warmup helped tremendously. Much less pain then normal after using it to warmup. I was even able to use the the same weight I usually work with.


      The article was very informative and reasurring as well.

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