After managing the injuries of many different types of athletes from competitive Bodybuilders, Olympic lifters and CrossFitters, there is one thing that remains constant - if the joint being challenged is stable, they will not only avoid injury but they will also produce power.
As an example, Bench Press is a movement that’s unforgiving, as it requires full shoulder girdle stability before you’re able to produce power. This is because the shoulder joint moves in so many different directions and planes, so if your shoulder is unstable at some point during the press, you will lose power and/or experience pain.
A common dysfunction here is an overuse of pec minor and anterior deltoid with an underuse of pec major. Pec minor and anterior deltoid overuse can lead to a rounded shoulder appearance and long term, can create a stubborn ‘pinching’ at the front of the shoulder during bench press. Most of my patients with this issue often have the problem for months and sometimes years, as it can be hard to diagnose and is often mistaken for ‘impingement’ or ‘tendonitis’. Some people go to the extent of getting scans (MRI/ultrasound) to figure out why the pain keeps coming back during the movement.
The worst part is, after the time you take to try and figure out the problem, have plenty of ‘Band-Aid’ treatment and waste heaps of time and money in the process, you actually haven’t trained, because “what’s the point?”.
Thankfully, the solution is simple
Learn to use your Pec Major properly during Bench Press.
1st step is to have better posture when lying on the bench. Some would argue that someone with better posture would have a better bench press. As you keep joints and muscles in the neutral range, they can contract harder. Having good posture and keeping the shoulder girdle in a neutral position is crucial in engaging the stabilizing muscles first.
2nd step is to learn how to move the shoulder blade correctly with the rest of the arm. This can be quite difficult to do on your own, but a good way to test your own symmetry is to perform a single arm bench press with a dumbbell and see if one side feels different to the other. Otherwise, this needs some expert coaching (Personal Trainer/EP or Chiro/Physio).
3rd step is to slowly return back to bench press using dumbbells and making sure your reps are slow and controlled. Make sure it’s supervised and you’re focusing on your pec firing (contractions closer to your chest rather than your shoulders). In the meantime, have your Chiro/Physio make sure your pelvis is working symmetrically. As you go up in weights, you will end up bracing more and more from your pelvis, so if it doesn’t work evenly, then neither will your shoulders.
When movement is efficient, you can lift a lot heavier. Training for the long term gain is where you should focus your energy, so its worth taking the time to work on your posture.
Not only will it prevent injuries but it will allow your muscles to contract maximally and get you faster results.