Why Does My Shoulder Hurt When I Bench Press?

While you may feel some aches when you are doing a workout, feeling pain is a completely different thing. Sharp and sudden pain can ruin the set you are on, and if it lingers then your whole gym session can be ruined, possibly for a few days or longer.

If you have ever felt shoulder pain while bench pressing then you have probably wondered why this happens, and what you can do to avoid it next time.

Here we will cover everything from why you may be in pain when doing this exercise, how to ease it, and how to do a bench press properly so you avoid this from happening again.

Why Does My Shoulder Hurt When I Bench Press

Shoulder Pain During A Bench Press

The bench press is a very popular exercise for those who want to increase their upper body strength. It targets muscles in the upper back, arms, and shoulders. If you have ever felt pain while doing this exercise, then the very first thing you have to do is pinpoint where exactly the pain is coming from.

You might think it is as simple as pointing to the shoulder area, but the shoulder is made up of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Depending on where the pain is will determine the treatment you need to take to solve it.

If you are unsure where the pain is coming from, then you should do a quick test. To do this, lie down on either the floor or the bench itself if you have one available, and make like you are about to lift the bar.

Identifying when you feel pain in the exercise can also help you determine where the pain is coming from. For example, are you feeling pain when you press the bar up? Or when your arms are extended? These can help you pinpoint the issue more accurately.

Front Shoulder Pain

If you think you are having trouble with your front shoulder, do the lie-down test to see what happens. When you do this, do you notice that you have a forward rounded contour to your shoulders or upper arms?

This is an indication that your rotator cuff is being overworked.

Roll your shoulders down and away from your ears before pressing the weight up for a rapid adjustment. Then picture retracting your shoulder blades by pressing them together.

While still laying down, extend the imaginary bar above your chest. It is possible that the pain is also being caused by your hands being too close together or too far apart, so adjust these to see if you feel more comfortable. 

The shoulders are strained much more by a wide hold. Using an excessively narrow grip may increase the tension on the elbows. Your grip in general should be no wider than 1 and 1/2 times your shoulder width. 

Shoulder Blade Pain

Also known as interscapular pain, this is where you feel pain in or between your shoulder blades. You may also feel it spread to your upper back. It can feel like a shooting or dull pain, or a general overall soreness in the muscles. 

Shoulder pain is not only caused by heavy lifting like you would do in a bench press. It may also be caused by a muscular imbalance or bad posture. 

The best cure for this type of pain is stretching exercises. Warming up before a gym session and cooling down after is vital to preventing this type of pain, as well as other aches and pains after a workout.

Stretches To Do When Experiencing Shoulder Pain


Stretches are some of the best exercises for shoulder pain and muscle tension after a workout. Here are a few to try out if you feel shoulder pain. Bear in mind that all of these require the use of a resistance band as using this is the most effective way to stretch out your muscles.

90/90 Shoulder External Rotation To Overhead Press

  • When standing up straight, pinch back both shoulder blades slightly. 
  • Stand on one end of the resistance band and hold the other end by stretching it up
  • Keep your elbows up with your forearm parallel to the floor
  • Rotate your arm until your forearm is facing in front of you, then stretch your am to the ceiling 

Scaption Raises

  • Stand on one end of the resistance band and hold the other end
  • Stand up straight and pinch shoulders back
  • Lift your arm out to a 45-degree angle and stop at shoulder height
  • Once you have done this stretch for a week or two you could move on to doing lateral raises to increase the strength in your shoulders

Shoulder External Rotation

  • Stand up straight with your shoulders pinched back
  • CHoosing the side where the pain is, place a towel between your torso and elbow
  • Hold the resistance band in both hands
  • Keeping the towel pinned against your body, pull on the band using the injured arm

How To Do A Bench Press Correctly

Doing a bench press is very easy, but doing it wrong can cause injury. Here is how to do it with the correct form.

  1. Lying flat on the bench, hold the bar just slightly wider than a shoulders width apart
  2. Roll your shoulders back and down, retracting your shoulder blades pinching them together
  3. Keep your hips to the bench and press your feet firmly into the floor as you lift the bar off the rack
  4. Bending your elbows, slowly lower the bar to your chest
  5. Press your heels into the ground to raise the barbell back up after it reaches chest height and your elbows have dipped slightly below the bench.
  6. Making sure that you do not lock your elbows, return the bar to its original position


Like all exercises, you can expect to feel a slight ache when doing them. But if you feel pain then something is wrong and you should stop. Do not try to push through this pain as you will only cause yourself more injury.

Try to identify where in your shoulder the pain is coming from and either adjust your position to see if that helps or do some stretches to relieve tension in your muscles. If this does not help then end your workout and give yourself enough time to rest and recover.

Kevin Harris