My shoulders kill me when I bench. I thought I had a rotator cuff tear, but my MRI came up negative. I’m not too flexible so my doctor told me that my shoulder pain could be from tightness around my shoulder, but he didn’t show me any stretches, he just prescribed an anti-inflammatory. Do you have any suggestions for before I bench?
If the musculature surrounding your shoulder joint is tight, an anti-inflammatory won’t help much. Don’t be so quick to pop pills, let’s try and make a permanent change to the tissue.
Now, there are MANY things than can be wrong with your shoulder, there’s also many different treatments out there. But for the purpose of this Q&A, I’m going to give you some basic advice that has absolutely saved my shoulders. In conjunction with my advice, I would also recommend that you see a soft tissue specialist in your area.
Before benching (or any workout) you must properly warm-up – Don’t just toss on two 45’s and warm-up by benching! First, get a light to moderate med ball and toss it around for about 5 min. (Get a partner or you can just get a med ball that will bounce off a wall and you can throw it to yourself.) Chest passes, overhead passes and bounce passes are great. After this general warm-up, I’m going to recommend that you perform 2 static stretches before you bench. YES, you heard me right…I said “STATIC” stretches. Before you try and execute me, let me explain. The two stretches that you are going to perform do NOT affect any of the prime movers in the bench press, so you will be fine. In fact, if you perform these stretches properly & consistently, you will be amazed at how much better your shoulders will feel!
The first stretch is a shoulder capsule stretch. This stretch puts your shoulder in somewhat of a vulnerable position, so be careful. Position your body and arm in the same position shown in the picture below. NOTE: When I first started doing this stretch, I couldn’t get my hand anywhere near the floor/bench. Ironically, that’s when my shoulders hurt like hell and I couldn’t bench without severe pain in my AC joint. Now, my flexibility has improved greatly. Take this stretch slow. 2 sets of 20-30 seconds everyday should do the trick. Besides pushing your hand closer to the ground, positioning your hand closer to your body will also increase the stretch. Again, take it slow.
Shoulder capsule stretch – a.k.a., my “shoulder-saver”
After your shoulder capsule stretch, I recommend that you perform a simple lat stretch. Remember that your lats are internal rotators of the humerus and they tighten up from most everyday activities. Simply, grab your power rack or a doorway, etc., and to quote Fat Joe, “Lean Back!” Again, 2 sets of 20-30 seconds each side should do the trick.
After your med ball warm-up and stretches, you are ready to bench. Start with the bar and work up slowly to continue your warm-up. You don’t necessarily have to do a lot of reps, but starting lighter and working up slowly will help as well.
If there are any nerds out there that are gathering up their anti-static-stretching research to send to me – save your energy. I’m not changing my views on this one. Doing these 2 stretches consistently, in conjunction with soft tissue work, literally saved me from shoulder surgery.
Q: Hi Joe,
I was wondering what you thought about HIT
training? What do you
think this type of training is good for? Have you ever used it on your
A: Hmmm, what is HIT training good for? Um, let me think about this one. My first response would be… “NOTHING!” But, I don’t want to leave you with such a short answer; let me put more thought into answering your question. Here is my Top 5 list of what I feel HIT training is good for:
Hit training is good for…
Catch my drift??
Q: Coach Defranco,
I have followed your site for quite some time now. I even contemplated sending you a resume after watching your football combine video – great info! But I must admit, some things on your site disturb me. In your combine video you say that you coach all of your athletes to tuck their elbows and lower the bar below their chest during the bench press. You then state that “your upper arms should be at about a 45-degree angle in relation to your upper body when the bar is in the bottom position.” Then, I look at the picture of Rich Demers benching on your site and his elbows aren’t tucked at all! In fact they’re flaring out quite a bit. What’s the deal “coach”?
I remember what happened that day…
I was running late for work and I forgot to pack my protractor in my gym bag. Once I got to work and started training Rich, I was completely lost without it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to train someone when you can’t measure the angle of their upper arm with your protractor? I felt naked training him that day.
Listen you friggin’ geek, Rich benched 480 lbs. that day and then just missed a 500 lb. bench…and he’s a football player, not a powerlifter. Do you have any idea how impressive that is?! What’s the most weight you’ve gotten underneath? I would take a wild guess and predict that you would get buried trying to bench 2 wet socks!
Rich Demers smoking 480 lbs.!!!
As far as your resume is concerned, don’t waste your energy sending it to me. Here’s my suggestion to you; Quit over-analyzing every little detail and get your ass in the weight room and get YOURSELF strong first. Then, maybe, just maybe, you can come talk to us!
In the meantime, I have an idea where you can send your resume…
No high impact gyrations, no tricky dance moves…
Q: Mr. DeFranco, I’ve noticed that in your “Skinny Bastard” routine you have back to back Max-Effort days (Monday – ME upper, Tuesday – ME lower). Isn’t that too much stress back to back on the Central Nervous System?
Thanks for your response,
A: Yes, it probably would be too much stress on the CNS if it were 2 “true” max-effort days. During the summer months, the “max-effort” lower body day isn’t “technically” a true max-effort day. The upper body day is usually a true max-effort, but the lower is not. On the lower body day we leave 1-3 reps “in the tank”. This is because many of our athletes are doing a lot of running during this time of year. You would definitely have to be a genetic freak to recover from back to back max-effort days in conjunction with all of the sprint training and practices. Most of our guys will work up to a “heavy” set of 3 and then move onto accessory work on their lower body strength day. They usually work up to a weight that they would be able to complete 5 reps with, but we stop them at 3. (Remember that there is a difference between a HEAVY set and a MAX set.)
Guys that are already super-strong, but need to work more on the elastic component of their muscles, will do dynamic box squats as their 1 st exercise, instead of a max-effort lift.
And sometimes we do what I call a “combo” exercise, a.k.a., an exercise that works both strength & rate of force development – For example, “3-1 method” w/chains in the deadlift. In this exercise, you perform a heavy set of 3 reps in the deadlift with heavy chains draped over the bar. After the 3 reps, have your partner strip the chains off of the bar and then perform 1 explosive rep without the chains on the bar. Rest 3 minutes between “3-1” sets. Perform 3 sets in this manner then move onto light assistance work.
Again, these are just guidelines. As you can see, I even modify my modified Westside Program! Remember that I write online programs to help you become better at designing your own programs! Don’t just be a monkey and follow every program that you read on the internet.
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