Bench Press Shoulder Pain

I have been doing research this week.

A colleague, Brenda Adams, emailed me and asked if I had any reference on what muscle is being used during the bench press.

I know what muscle works, but I did not know if what I knew was right; so I hit the books.

I found the answer but also some information on grip and bench press; plus which is better  – machines or free weights – when it comes to the bench press.

Enjoy!

What Muscles Are Working during Different Bench Presses?

What They Looked at

This experiment investigated the effects of varying bench inclination and hand spacing on the EMG activity of five muscles acting at the shoulder joint.

What They Did

Six male weight trainers performed bench presses under four conditions of trunk inclination and two of hand spacing at 80% of their predetermined maximum.

What They Found

– The sternocostal head of the pectoralis major was more active during the press from a horizontal bench than from a decline bench.

– The clavicular head of the pectoralis major was no more active during the incline bench press than during the horizontal one, but it was less active during the decline bench press.

– The clavicular head of the pectoralis major was more active with a narrow hand spacing.

– Anterior deltoid activity tended to increase as trunk inclination increased.

– The long head of the triceps brachii was more active during the decline and flat bench presses than the other two conditions, and was also more active with a narrow hand spacing.

– Latissimus dorsi exhibited low activity in all conditions.

Where to get more information – Barnett C. (1995). Effects of variations of the bench press exercise on the EMG activity of five shoulder muscles. 1995 Nov;9(4):10-14. (Yes, it is an oldie but a goodie.  Let me know if you have something more recent.)

If the research above interested you, make sure to get my free seminar that I did on exercise and shoulder injuries, you can get it here.

What Muscles are Working During Different Bench Press Grips?

What They Looked at

They looked at muscle activity during isometric hold of 5 different bench press exercises. They looked at grip width (narrow, mid, and wide) and supination/pronation to see how these factors influenced muscles in the flat bench press.

What they Found

– A supinated grip (palm up) resulted in increased activity for the biceps brachii and the clavicular portion of the pectoralis major.

– Moving from wide to narrower grip widths increased triceps activity and decreased the sternoclavicular portion of the pectoralis major.

– If the grip was supinated, moving to a narrower grip position did not result in a decrease in muscle activity of the sternoclavicular portion of the pectoralis major.

– Increase in triceps brachii activity when moving to a narrower grip width was not influenced by the level of supination.

What They Recommend

Considering the small changes that occur during changes in grip width, the choice of grip position should be determined by the positions athletes adopt during their sport. Sport specificity should supersede attempts to train specific muscle groups.

Take Home Message

As you know from reading the blog, I look at things from an injury point of view.  I know this information is going to help me change forces in the exercises depending on an injury a person has.  Someone with an AC joint sprain, I can switch from a pronated grip to a supinated grip when doing the bench press and see if this modification allows them to keep doing the exercise while they recover from their injury.

Where to get more information – Lehman GJ. (2005). The influence of grip width and forearm  pronation/supination on upper-body myoelectric activity during the flat bench press. J Strength Cond Res. 2005 Aug;19(3):587-91.

I did another seminar on the shoulder that you can have, just click here and get it.


What is Better a Free Weight or Machine Bench Press?

What They Looked at

They looked at the muscle activation of the anterior deltoid, medial deltoid, and pectoralis major during a Smith machine and free weight bench press at lower and higher intensities.

What They Found

Results indicated greater activation of the medial deltoid on the free weight bench press than on the Smith machine bench press.  There was no difference in muscle activation for anterior deltoris and pectoralis major between the exercises.

They also recommended that the free weight may be a better exercise because it challenges the scapular stabilizers of the shoulder while the Smith machine bench press may have a role for injury recovery and teaching novice weight trainers.

If you want more information on scapular stabilization exercises, you can check out my program here.



Where to get more information – Schick EE, Coburn JW, Brown LE, Judelson DA, Khamoui AV, Tran TT, Uribe BP. (2010). A comparison of muscle activation between a Smith machine and free weight bench press. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Mar;24(3):779-84.

I really hope you enjoyed the blog post, make sure to let me know what you think below in the comments area.

 

Rick Kaselj, MS