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Bench pressing is a popular exercise for building your chest and triceps strength. However, many people experience neck pain after performing this exercise. Neck pain from bench pressing can be a symptom of a minor issue or an indicator of a more severe underlying injury. Throughout this article, we will discuss the root causes of neck pain from the bench press and provide tips to prevent and alleviate it.
Bench Press Form
Proper bench press form is critical to avoid injuries. When performing a bench press, maintaining proper form ensures that the exercise targets the intended muscles while minimizing the risk of injury. Below are the steps to follow for the perfect bench press form:
- Begin by lying on a bench with your feet planted firmly on the ground. The barbell should be at arm’s length, perpendicular to your chest.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together to create a stable foundation. Your back should be flat against the bench.
- Lower the barbell to your mid-chest, keeping your elbows tucked close to your body.
- Press the barbell up in a controlled motion and exhale as you push. Do not lock your elbows at the top of the press.
By following these steps, you will reduce the risk of injury and alleviate stress on your neck muscles.
Common Bench Press Injuries
The bench press is known to cause various injuries. These include shoulder impingements, rotator cuff tears, and chest muscle strains. However, neck pain is often overlooked and dismissed as a minor issue. In reality, neck pain can be a symptom of more severe injuries, such as cervical spine strains or herniated discs.
Root Causes of Neck Pain From Bench Pressing
Below are some reasons you might experience neck pain after performing a bench press.
- Poor bench press form – Bad form can put excessive strain on your neck muscles, leading to pain and discomfort. Some common form errors that lead to neck pain include over-arching the back, lifting your shoulders off the bench, and flaring your elbows.
- Tension in the neck muscles – Overcompensating for weak chest and shoulder muscles by tensing your neck muscles can cause pain and stiffness. Additionally, holding your breath during the exercise or gripping the bar too tightly can create tension.
- Overtraining – Excessive training without proper rest can lead to neck pain. Over training can result in fatigue, which in turn leads to poor form and increases the risk of injury.
- Lack of warm-up – Skipping warm-up exercises can put you at a greater risk of injuries. Warming up the chest, shoulder, and neck muscles before benching can reduce the risk of injury and improve overall performance.
- Pre-existing injuries or conditions – If you have a pre-existing neck injury or condition, such as a herniated disc, the bench press can exacerbate the pain and discomfort. It is crucial to consult a medical professional before starting any exercise program if you have pre-existing conditions.
Solving the Problem
- Improve your bench press form – By maintaining proper form, you will reduce the risk of injury and alleviate stress on your neck muscles. If you’re struggling in this department, consider working with a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach.
- Incorporate neck stretches into your warm-up routine – Neck stretches can help alleviate tension and reduce the risk of injury. You can easily stretch your neck by gently tilting your head to each side and holding for a few seconds. Neck circles in a controlled, gentle motion are also great.
- Strengthen your chest and shoulder muscles – Strengthening these muscles can reduce the amount of strain placed on your neck during the bench press. Some exercises to consider include push-ups, dumbbell flys, and overhead presses.
- Reduce the weight or number of reps – Reducing the weight or number of reps can help alleviate neck pain caused by overtraining. It’s essential to listen to your body and take rest days when necessary.
- Activate your back muscles during the movement – This can be done by pinching your shoulder blades together, thus creating an arch in your back. Doing so ensures that your cervical spine isn’t overcompensating.
- Seek medical attention – If the neck pain persists or is severe, it’s crucial to seek medical attention. A medical professional can diagnose and treat underlying conditions that may be causing you pain.
Alternatives to the Bench Press
For some individuals, bench pressing may continue to cause neck pain even after implementing the solutions mentioned above. In such cases, it may be best to consider alternative exercises that can help strengthen the chest and shoulder muscles without placing too much strain on the neck. Below are a few alternative exercises to the bench press:
- Incline dumbbell press- This exercise targets the upper chest and front deltoids. It involves holding a dumbbell in each hand, lying back on the bench, and pushing the dumbbells up towards the ceiling. This exercise is often less taxing on your neck compared to a traditional barbell bench press.
- Cable flys – This exercise involves pulling cables towards the center of your chest, while keeping your arms straight. Cable flys target the chest muscles and anterior deltoids without the added strain on your neck.
- Push-ups – A classic bodyweight exercise that can help strengthen the chest, shoulders, and triceps. They can be performed in different variations, such as incline push-ups, decline, or diamond push-ups.
- Dumbbell overhead press – This exercise targets the shoulders which are key for stabilization on the bench press. Start with a dumbbell in each hand, bring the dumbbells to shoulder height, and perform a controlled press towards the ceiling.
- Machine bench press – If you can’t do the real thing, you can build plenty of strength by using machines. The principle is the same because your chest and shoulders are the primary targets. Machines are usually available for decline, incline, and flat bench presses.
While the bench press is an effective exercise for building chest and shoulder strength, it can cause neck pain in some individuals. By considering these alternative exercises, you can continue to build strength and muscle mass without worrying as much about your neck. It is essential to listen to your body, modify your workout routine as necessary, and consult a medical professional if the pain persists or is severe.
In conclusion, neck pain from bench pressing can be a symptom of a minor issue or a more severe underlying injury. To recap, here are a few ways to prevent and alleviate this nagging issue.
- Focus on maintaining proper form, especially as the weight increases.
- Incorporate neck stretches into your warm-up routine.
- Strengthen your chest and shoulder muscles with accessory exercises.
- Reduce the weight or number of reps if you feel like something’s wrong.
- Seek medical attention in the event that the pain is recurring or severe.
The bench press is a great compound movement, but it could become problematic if you have underlying injuries or muscular imbalances. As always, it’s crucial to listen to your body and get adequate rest if you’re training often. Most importantly, consult a medical professional instead of self-diagnosing your ailments.