Is your weight training program causing your upper back pain?

How much do ya bench?

This is likely the most asked question of the avid gym goer. It is rare that a person will ask, how much can you squat, deadlift, or clean, even though these are far more beneficial exercises for the majority of the population; but that’s a whole other article. It’s then no surprise that on any given day at the average gym you’ll see every bench press station being used, each one possibly shared between 3 or 4 people even.

Bench presses are a useful exercise, a properly performed bench press can recruit all of the muscles that act to internally rotate the shoulder such as pecs, lats, and subscapularis. The problem occurs when people either ignore or are not aware of the posterior musculature that opposes these internal shoulder rotators.

What happens when you focus too much on bench press?

The internal rotators can become hypertonic (too much tonicity) and actually become shorter than normal length, forcing you into bad posture. The posterior musculature is then forced to lengthen, which causes upper/mid back pain and leads to movement impairment of the shoulder.

Is this preventable?

Yes! The good news is you don’t have to stop benching. Here’s a few simple exercises to prevent upper back pain by balancing the surrounding musculature.

Firstly, strengthen the muscles of scapular retraction and shoulder external rotation. If you strengthen muscles such as rhomboids, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and teres minor you can help to prevent this problem. Here’s three simple exercises that can all be done with a resistance band; face pulls, band pull-aparts, and external rotations. These should be done on the days that you do your bench pressing for starters.

You should also dedicate some time after your bench press workout to stretching the internal rotators, mainly the pecs.

Not only will these few simple preventative measures help to keep upper back pain away, it could also help add poundage to your bench press, and everyone wants to know, how much do ya bench?