Partial Bench Press for Safety/Shoulder Health?

I’m beginning to have some shoulder quibbles as well as some safety concerns benching alone in the basement. Using a half rack, I’m entertaining the idea of setting the safety catches in the lowest position (bar 4" above the chest) and performing all bench presses partially in the top 3/4 range of motion.

It seems this would fit in with a sprinter’s strength routine if lifting is truly general strength only; a reduction in ROM of a non-prime mover shouldn’t be a big deal. Perhaps shoulder impingement would also be eliminated if the upper arms are not moving below perpendicular with the torso. Although I assume pectoral development would be less than the full range bench press (which is good, right?), are there any compromises to taking this approach, like reduced CNS stimulation (or could the same 35% MU be attained)?

Not significantly. You have to consider the structural differences between yourself and big benchers. Big benchers tend to have more of a structural advantage because their humerus is short and rib cage is huge. If you’re concerned about shoulder stress and you lift on your own, 90-degrees of depth is fine on the bench press (meaning humerus is parallel to the ground). You’ll be able to use more weight with less ROM so you could still recruit very many MU’s.

Wouldn’t using boards help prevent exessive ROM benching for those with small rib cage or really skinny guys? Funny, i used DB Hammer’s stuff for a while and the pain in my shoulder went away after suffering for a year. Keep in mind, I was using westside prior to DB’s system…

Thanks guys. ltruett, due to your reference I searched up on DB Hammer (he seems well respected here) and found this article re: correcting bench problems. Looks like some good stuff there.

What do you think about the DB system specifically made the difference? Increased rest between workouts?
Different exercises?
All or none of the above?

Re partials, I was listening to this interview with Louie Simmons last night about WS for bber’s and he suggested they be very careful and basically avoid partials due to the increased stress, better going for full ROM.

Doing Iso bench is when I started noticing that my shoulder started to get better. I was doing power prep template. There were other guys experiencing the same thing as I did. It was part of the reason why I switched over to DB to see if it’d do the same thing for my shoulder and it did. Now that it did, I got lazy with DB’s. :frowning: . A couple weeks ago, this big dude took over the power rack while i was doing other exercises. I came up to him and told him i wasnt finished with it (he took all the weights off! i was doing 315lbs squat). My stuff was on the floor by it and i told him, " look at my stuff here i was using it" and he said i wasn’t there. I was about to kick his ass when he said “forget it” and walked off. Lol. That’s one downside to using DB’s, having to do the rotation where you’re not there for 6 minutes!

That’s interesting about Louie recommending against partial bench. I could have sworn that he said doing board presses take stress off the shoulders?? I don’t know what he was saying on that website because I’m totally deaf. Poop.

i don’t know how anyone can use DB’s system in a commercial gym.

No kidding! I was walking all over places!

Joel full bench press is one of the safest exercises there is! Give me a list of what you do during the week, please include all exercises! It is quite possible that your grip maybe to far apart and this is causing the excess shoulder pain/impingement you speak off. So please give me the length of how far apart your hands are and what your personal stats are (i.e. 6’2 260). Doing just partials with never ever doing full ROM on the bench is a very bad idea, the reason is that your muscles are much stronger at 3/4 then they are throughout the entire ROM; therefore, what this leads to is your muscles getting bigger much faster while your tendons/ligaments struggle to keep up. Trust me they won’t and then BAM another shoulder injury. I found that changing my grip to a closer one on the bench press eliminated some sore shoulder stress that I was experiencing earlier on this year.

fix the cause of your problem, don’t work around it. Partial ROm bench will make things worse

strengthen external rotors to balance your internal rotors. increase the strength of the lower and mid traps to match, likewise the rear delts, increase the ROM of the shoulder area and pecs etc

overuse causes imbalances, so i would back off all pressing while you fix the problem. Then when it’s fixed, don’t let it happen again, by training everything equally, and getting sufficient recovery to allow the tendons and joints to heal. Muscles recover quickly, CNS a bit slower, tendons slower still
people forget this

I suggest you read the articles on the rotor complex by Eric Cressey on tmag and Rugged

i agree with coolcolj regarding strengthing external rotators and other stabilizing muscles. also, how’s shoulder flexibility?

have you tried the following:

  1. decline bench
  2. db bench (any angle)

Supervenomsuperman - I’m just beginning my GPP and working into the 6x week split routine of lifting. Pretty much using the basic 4 upper body and 4 lower body exercises from the DVD. Coming from a middle distance/basketball background, I’ve never lifted in anything other than an Anatomical Adaptation style (8-15 reps, 2-3 sets, moderate weight) so I want to get this worked out before attempting a Max Strength phase. Am being very careful and will also take several months working on the core (which has been neglected) before putting anything heavy on my back. Hand spacing is 21" between the thumbs and my size is 6’0" 160lbs. Honestly, the shoulders are hurting me on the military press and the squat when I try and get in real tight, not the bench… I’m blaming the bench press though after reading so much negativity directed towards it. Incline press is much more preferable to me, though I doubt I can get the weights as high in a Max Strength phase or achieve the same CNS % of Motor Units. The closer grip is going to isolate the triceps, right? Won’t that diminish the CNS since a smaller group of muscles is activated?

CoolcolJ - Thanks for the article reference, I’ll check it out. I have been doing a few auxiliary lifts for the rotator cuff but I’m not sure they’ve helped.
-standing arm raises while internally rotating the arms, as if pouring out a drink
-lying on side w/ elbow in close and arm at 90 degrees…internally and externally rotating with a dumbbell

ccardill - not sure how my shoulder flexibility rates; I try and give the upper body a good round of dynamic but gentle stretches before lifting. Have tried decline bench w/ dumbells: pretty tough to get started without a partner if the weights are heavy. And as I mentioned above in this post, I much prefer the dumbbell bench, though I doubt I can get the numbers as high as with the barbell.

  1. move your hands wider on the bar when squatting…it sounds like you could have tight shoulders. this could be from overdeveloped shoulders and chest and not enough development in the back, lats, traps, delts, etc. work on strengthing your upper back muscles.

  2. just because you can’t get the weights AS high on the incline doesn’t mean its not effective. if your 90%+ on the incline press, why wouldn’t that be effective?

I don’t know how anyone can train in a commercial gym at all :smiley:

ltruett are you really deaf? :confused:

Yes, I’m really deaf. 100% hearing loss. it’s a bitch when it comes to finding decent paying jobs.

how wide are your shoulders from the edge of one shoulder to the other?

19" from outside edge to outside edge.

So only one inch extra on each side of your shoulder? I’m no genius, ok I am a genius and what I have concluded is that your arms are way to close to each other. This means your working your triceps more so than your chest bc your grip is much closer than what it should be! Try spacing your hands out so that the hand spacing is 25 inches between the thumbs and see if that helps! Remember this 25 is for your bench and incline grips only not your military press! The military press should be closer than the bench/incline press grips! I would increase your military press grip to 22 inches between thumbs and see if this helps!

I suspect that also you maybe training wrong or using the incorrect percentages, so please post a weekly workout schedule so I can help you further!

P.S. I know it takes some time but better that than injury!

Power Bench Press
Most people are much more impressed by the amount one can bench as opposed to a how much one can deadlift or squat. Almost everyone wants a big bench! Now think of how many times someone has asked how much you squat or deadlift? Enough said!

There are generally three movement styles involved with this power movement. The wide grip bench, which is usually better suited for the longer limbed physique; the narrow grip, which is generally better for the shorter limbed individuals; and lastly, the reverse grip, which in the past few years has been declared an acceptable form for competition.

The wide grip, decreases the distance the bar must move. The hands are at the maximum legal length of 32 inches and it recruits more pectoral muscle fibers to do the work. The narrow grip, is usually around 28-30 inches and involves more triceps and anterior deltoid work. The reverse grip, for all practical purposes, will not be discussed in this book. So what body type are you? Now, choose your style.

Tom McCullough MS, RD, CSCS, MSS
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Sport Nutrition Consultant
Houston, TX

So as you can see Joel even if you increase your grip to what I recommend you still have what is considered a narrow grip; however, be aware that wide grip bench press IMO is that if its too wide than injury can result in the form of a shoulder impingement or other shoulder related injuries! So stick with what I told you earlier for your bench and see if it helps!

28-30inch narrow grip??? :confused:

I use 14inch grip - now that’s narrow! :slight_smile: