Strong Chest, Safe Shoulders

Everyone wants to brag about how much they can bench press.  However, a lot of people can't adequately press because of injured or cranky shoulders.

Shoulder injuries are ridiculously common among gym goers.  An injured shoulder does not have to mean a long time away from the gym.  There are smart and safe ways to work around it, while still getting a training effect.

A bum shoulder can throw a wrench into your plans for bench press domination.  There is one way you can continue to build your press, while saving your shoulder. 

What is it?

The Floor Press is a very similar exercise to the bench press.  Minus the, uh, bench.

Many cranky shoulders are due to an artificial range of motion being imposed by the loaded barbell. Basically the bar is forcing your shoulder into a more provactive position than the joint is capable of. 

Shoulder pain happens when the bar is near the chest.  That position places your shoulder joint into both a high degree of extension and internal rotation.  That's not a bad thing in and of itself, but many people don't have the needed stability or mobility to handle position without a lot of compensation.  By purposely limiting your range of motion you can give your shoulder some time to heal, while still training your chest hard. 

By setting up on the floor you are not allowing your shoulder to drop beyond your spine, into a severely extended position like you do while bench pressing.  It will allow your shoulder blade to stay stabilized on the ground with the added benefit of limiting the extension of the upper arm. 

This will keep your shoulder "packed" and supported by the musculature of your upper back and lats.  It is a supremely safe position that will cut down on any chance of injury. 

The Floor Press limits the range of motion your shoulder needs to achieve, but not the amount of force your pecs need to produce.  Being able to overload a partial range of motion or train out of a dead stop position is not an easy task.   Some of you might find this variation more challenging than a traditional bench press.

How to do it

You can set up two ways here.

  1. Bent Knees
  2. Straight Legs

Bending your knees will allow your spine and pelvis to remain neutral and in contact with the floor.

Keeping your legs straight will make it more difficult to compensate with your core and hips, but places a higher degree of stress on your lower back because of the arched position, which cannot be supported by leg drive like during a traditional bench press.

My preferred method is the first, but that does not mean it's correct for you.  Experiment with both positions.

Things to Keep in Mind

Before you load a ton of weight find the ideal angle for your hand and elbow.  

You want to find the position that is pain free and natural for you.  There is no rule that says you must press with your hands a certain way- find the comfortable setup for you and go with it.

There are many ways to work around an injury, but the most efficient way is to ensure that an injury never happens in the first place.  You must find what works for you and do it continually, and do it with confidence.  Each of our journey to health is different, and you must embrace your own path.  For some that means a heavy barbell bench press, for others that might mean a different variation of pressing.  


Patrick Henigan