Are there any safe chest exercise you can do when you have shoulder impingement? Or should you avoid all forms of chest exercise in general?

7 Answers 7


Push ups. ONLY IF THEY ARE PAINLESS. It goes without saying that, if your feel shoulder pain during push ups or any other exercise, you should stop immediately (ignoring this puts you under risk of becoming a full supraspinatus tear).

Be careful not to flare your elbows out. That goes for your triceps too (you asked that in another thread). Push ups will work your chest and triceps.

If you cannot exercise without pain, then you should not try it. Seek a therapist. Exercising while in pain will only worsen your condition. The pain happens because the subacromial space is reduced and the supraspinatus has no room. Trying to push through the pain will eventually lead to severe damage to that delicate muscle.

If you cannot afford medical treatment, then try to rest and avoid any overhead activity with that arm, and anything that causes pain. If that is your dominant arm, learn to use the computer mouse with the other. Only after the pain has gone and is well in the past, then start exercising, but always avoiding overhead activities.


Basicly any excercise you can do 30+ repetitions without pain. For rehabilitation you want a low load and a lot of repetitions, this will get the blood flowing and help the healing process. If push ups are to hard, try easier variations, e.g. leaning against an open doorway and performing the push up movement. Adjust angle by moving your feet either closer to the door or further away until you can do 30-50 reps. 3 sets are sufficient.

Stretching also helps. Stretching is also a light eccentric excercise. Take a belt or elastic band and grab above your head. Slowly move your arms backwards till the belt touches your bottom, then reverse. Repeat 5-10 times.


You need to find what works for you, depending on the severity and manner of shoulder impingement.

For some people a flat bench press hurts but an incline one feels strangely fine. Others find that barbell work is problematic but dumbbell work doesn't cause issues.

I'd suggest some experimentation, but again this all depends on how severe your impingement is.


You could give decline benching a go. Should be less of a strain on your shoulder.

You could also try some dumb bell / cable flies.

You also want to avoid any incline exercises, these will use you shoulders slightly.

But as Mephisto said only if you don't feel any pain. There is nothing worse than re-injuring yourself and having to take even more time out.

  • I'm not sure how decline benching would be less of a strain given the effects of gravity and the general awkwardness of the movement.
    – rrirower
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 20:24
  • You don't use your delts as much as opposed to flat/incline
    – son15
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 20:25
  • 1
    But the weight is still going to push down on your shoulders, by virtue of your arms being connected there.
    – Alec
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 10:40

Find yourself a physical therapist to help you if possible, as he/she will be able to tailor exercises to your particular situation.

I recently went through this. I found that I could bench (flat) if I went really light on the weight (I dropped back down to the bar only) and if I got my back and shoulder position correct. For me this is retracting the scapula (but not as exaggerated as powerlifters do) and getting my elbows in the right position (for me, at a 45 degree position). Also, lift off with the arms rather than pushing the shoulders forward.

If you play around with this, you should be able to find a combination of variables where it doesn't hurt (or just barely hurts). That's what you want.

I've also found face pulls to be very helpful to get my shoulders back. Make sure to get the shoulders back and down at the beginning of each rep.


Do a reverse grip bench press. It's a good way to open up that subacromial space and correctly position the humerus head in the rotator cuff and in fact it actually helps to decompress that joint space. It's a good rehab exercise that takes pressure off the shoulder joint and emphasizes the upper chest and triceps more than the regular bench press. Don't go too.heavy, watch videos on proper form and always use a spotter. Over time, you'll notice that you should be able to go up in weight with little to no pain at all in your shoulder joint space. Eventually over time your shoulder should be able to rehab itself. By simply switching the grip from an overhand (pronated) grip to a reverse (supinated-to-neutral) grip you can preform all kinds of pressing movements with this hand positioning in mind. I can almost guarantee that you'll feel very little if any pain and it'll start to subside over time. Hope this helps.


Personal experience, there is a lot of trial and error when working out with an injury. You have got to seriously listen to your body. I can't do anything with a barbell or my shoulder is screaming in less than 5 reps, doesn't matter what weight it is or the motion. Dumbbells I can do without any pain what so ever. I can't do close grip pushups but I can do any other grip. I have to warm up a lot to do a shoulder press and really listen to that joint. When I haven't run for a while (I skip when it's cold) I have the same pain for the whole run, day 2 no problem. I usually break every 1/4 mile or so for push ups or my hip makes weird noises. Unfortunately being an idiot growing up has left me a much higher than healthy pain tolerance. Also many wtf's from Dr.s when my x rays come back. Been told before I shouldn't be capable of walking, not that I need to be on bed rest, but that I shouldn't be capable of it.

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