Bench Press and Pectoralis Major Tears

chest press and pectoralis major

In the past 15 years, weight training has become popular among men and women of all ages. Many start lifting weights without really knowing what to do though. They go to the gym with someone who’s been lifting for some time already and copy their movements or maybe they check out some YouTube tutorials. There is a lot that can go wrong if you do not have the proper technique, especially with bench presses, squats and deadlifts. These lifts are more complicated than you may think and a proper form is difficult to achieve. So let’s discuss these exercises and start with the bench press.  

Injuries Caused by Flawed Bench Press Techniques

Most injuries occur when bench press exercises are carried out incorrectly or with too much weight. The bench press is often recommended to beginners in resistance training. It is a great exercise to make quick gains. But this comes with a downfall because it is hard to execute properly. About 50-70% of pectoralis major injuries (chest muscle injuries) are caused by bench press exercises.

It often occurs during forced abduction of the upper arm, when the bar is at its lowest point. Sprains, strains or even tears of the chest muscles can occur at that point in movement. You will notice this when abduction movements (lifting the arm up) cause pain or sudden weakness. If the muscle was torn you may notice unnatural fullness in the muscle since it is not under proper tension. The bench press can also cause injuries to your shoulder, such as shoulder instability, osteoarthritis and a rotator cuff tear. All this injuries get caused by too many bench press exercises or bad techniques. So, how can you lower the risk?

Learn the Proper Bench Press Technique

Technique is very important when lifting, especially in case of the bench press because you will be lifting heavy loads over time. And when you are just starting with exercising you will have no experience. Do not start with weights on the bar, even if that feels too light. Your brain has to learn the new movement patterns and the bench press is not part of your normal daily activity.

It takes around 300-500 repetitions to learn a movement. To re-learn a movement that has been carried out incorrectly before takes between 3000 and 5000 repetitions.

By beginning slowly and learning it properly you will be doing yourself a favour. In the long-term, your shoulders will not wear out so quickly. You can learn the proper technique from personal trainers in your gym or get in touch with our online instructors. There are also tons of videos on the internet or experienced lifters in your gym with good information. But be aware that even those are not always right. Feel free to contact us for a proper personalised workout schedule.

Leave Your Ego at Home

A lot of times, injuries happen because of a big ego. Whichever gym you go to, you probably know some guys who lift more than they should. Moments of overconfidence or a desire to impress your gym mates are never good. Thinking you can lift over 100 kg when you normally lift around 75 kg is not smart. Even when you just want to try 2 or 3 reps it is very tricky and dangerous.

Your pectoralis major is not used to so much stress and can easily sprain or even snap. So, do yourself a favour and add weight to your bar gradually. If you want to improve your personal record always ask someone else to spot your bench press. The person must be strong enough to lift the bar when you are not able to lift anymore. By doing it properly and safely you can still achieve personal records and get 2 or 3 extra repetitions in. You will not have to be afraid of failure and will not look like you have inflated ego.

Take Home Message

First, learn the proper lifting technique from a professional. If that is not possible in your gym, we can always help you through our online coaching, for example by video call. We can discuss the technique and check if you are doing it right. Always practise with no or very little weights to get more experience in the movement. Add load onto the bar gradually and build your muscle. You will notice big gains in no time without running the risk of injuries. Enjoy!

Literature used in this blog article
  1. Bengtsonn V, Berglund L, Aasa U. Narrative review of injuries in powerlifting with special reference to their association to the squat, bench press and deadlift. BMJ Open sport & exercise medicine 2018; 4: 1-8.
  2. Golshani K, Cinque ME, O’Halloran P, et al. Upper extremity weightlifting injuries: diagnosis and management. Journal of orthopaedics 2018; 15: 24-27
  3. Lindberg S. Physical therapy for bench press shoulder injuries. 2019; https://www.livestrong.com/article/436454-physical-therapy-for-bench-press-shoulder-injuries/ consulted on 22-4-2020
  4. Stehle D. Learning a new skill takes practice. 2017; http://eatmovebe.com/learning-a-new-skill-takes-practice/consulted on 22-4-2020
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