Save Your Shoulders to Boost Your Bench
If your shoulders hurt when you bench, your pec minor muscle may be tight. This is the chest muscle that lies under the larger pec major. Even if you stretch your pecs regularly, the classic door-frame stretch— elbow bent 90 degrees, forearm vertical against the frame, and leaning forward—won’t hit the pec minor. Try the stretch described below before you bench. By loosening the pec minor, you increase its range of motion, which takes pressure off the shoulder joint.
Raise your arm overhead 30–40 degrees above parallel. Place your palm against a wall and turn your body away. Hold for 10 seconds. Perform two sets (each side).
1. Roll out the pec minor using a lacrosse ball or baseball. Dig the ball right into the junction between your shoulder and pec. Do this before you bench press to enhance the effect.
2. Perform external rotations. Take a cable, bend your elbow 90 degrees, and raise your arm out to the side—then rotate your forearm backward. This strengthens the rotator cuff, which stabilizes pressing.
3. Take breaks. Don’t bench press for more than three to four weeks in a row. Swap in other presses that work the pecs from different angles, and use different equipment, like dumbbells.
Sample Bench-Press Warmup
- Pec Minor Rollout: Make small circles with the ball for 30 seconds straight.
- Pec Minor Stretch: Stretch each side for 10 seconds; repeat.
- External Rotation: Perform a set of 6 reps on each side, then a set of 3 reps.
- Plyo Pushup: Perform a set of 6 reps, then a set of 3. Rest 30 seconds between sets.
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