3 Bench Press Variations For Lifters With Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain with benching is one of the most common injuries that we hear lifters and gym-goers talk about (possibly because it’s the only lift that has a “day” for it…Monday is Universal Bench Day after all). Sometimes it can even seem like you can’t bench at all when dealing with shoulder pain…

But, we’re here to help solve this problem! We’ve helped tons of lifters solve their bench press woes and shoulder pain, and continue to bench press while doing so! And today, we’re going to show you three of our favorite bench press variations that you can try even if you’re dealing with a shoulder injury.

3-0-3 Tempo DB Floor Press

For this bench press variation, we are going to use dumbbells and lay on the floor instead of on the bench. From there, we are going to perform presses with dumbbells, and use a 3-0-3 tempo. This tempo entails lowering the weight for 3 seconds and then pressing the weight up for 3 seconds, without pauses in any part of the reps.

Using dumbbells is often more comfortable for people when dealing with shoulder pain, and the slow tempo will limit how much weight you can lift. Performing this movement on the floor also limits how deep you can get into the movement, which is helpful if the bottom portion of the lift aggravates your shoulder.

To progress this movement, you can move from the floor to a full range of motion on a bench, and then progress to regular speed reps instead of tempo reps.

3 Second Eccentric Pin Bench

For this bench press variation, you are going to set pins or safeties to a height that allows you to lower the bar a comfortable distance. Once you have this in place, you will set up like a regular bench press, unrack the weight, and then perform reps with a 3 second long eccentric (lowering phase).

The 3 second eccentric will limit the amount of weight on the bar while still allowing you to train hard, and the pin/safety height will keep you in a comfortable range of motion. Over time, as the shoulder pain subsides, you can reduce the height of the pins/safeties, and return to a regular speed for the eccentric portion of the rep.

5 Second Eccentric Incline Bench Press

For this bench press variation, we are going to set a bench to a slight incline and perform reps with a 5 second eccentric (lowering) phase. The change in angle often makes the press more comfortable (you can try different amounts of incline or decline to see what feels best), and the 5 second eccentrics will limit how much weight you can put onto the bar.

To progress this bench variation, you can increase the speed of the eccentric portion of the lift and work the angle back to flat benching.

These three bench press variations are great options when you want to continue benching while dealing with shoulder pain, and are examples of exercise variations that we’ve used with many of our past clients!

If you are looking for help with your own shoulder pain, click the button below to request a free phone consult with one of our expert Doctors of Physical Therapy!


Ryan VanNieuwenhuyze

Barbell Physical Therapy & Performance

"We Help Active Adults, Lifters, And Athletes Solve Their Pain And Get Back To The Workouts And Sports They Enjoy Without Medication, Surgery, Or Stopping The Activities They Love."