Save Your Shoulders! Quick Tip #1

Where are your elbows when you press? Do you know which positions are dangerous for your shoulders? Just in case your shoulders need some saving, here’s a quick tip on what to watch for! 

When doing bench press or push-ups, you might find yourself flaring your elbows up towards your ears when you get tired. Usually this is an athlete subconsciously searching for a stronger position. Unfortunately, getting those elbows up too high can easily cause impingement of the shoulder joint. (the ball of the humerus will grind against the tendon of the supraspinatus, which can cause inflammation or tearing)


The bench press (or push-up) can cause shoulder impingement. Right: shoulder abducted 90 degrees, the top of the humerus can grind against the rotator cuff causing impingement. Left: a better elbow position allowing for space in the joint.

The left side of the diagram shows the safer position for your shoulder. Aim for somewhere in the middle (45-70 degrees from your side) and not only will you be in a safer position, you’ll be stronger.

Your starting position will effect your elbows as well. If you start with the bar around the nipple line, it will lead your elbows to a more natural position.

The cue of “breaking the bar” is helpful here, and will help get you in the correct elbow position, tightening up your back and providing a more stable platform to press from. For more detail on bench press form, check out my article on how to add 20 pounds to your bench.

The rules for push-ups are no different, it’s just the cue that changes. Instead of thinking about “breaking the bar”, you can think of screwing your hands into the ground – it will put you in the same position.

Just remember, don’t bench like a T! Keep those shoulders happy!

no t-bar benching!
shoulder impingement syndrome

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