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although I like the bench press very much, I think I'll stop doing it as it causes me right scapula pain in the point shown in figure.

enter image description here

This probem occurs if I perform barbell bench press, dumbbell bench press and chest press machine, although all the coaches have watched my executions say they are good from an external point of view.

I do not suffer from this pain in any other exercise I do (push-up, dip, overhead press, pull-up, pull-down, squat, deadlift etc).

So my question is: how can I replace the bench press for hypertrophy purposes in my situation? Push-up and dip are good alternatives but with them I find it more difficult (compared to the bench press) to make progress.

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    Why do you find dips difficult to make progress with? I've found that progressing reps to ~18-25 then adding weight (usually aiming for 5-12 reps, and when achieving 3 sets of 12, adding more weight) works well for me. I like to keep the first and last sets unweighted to maintain high rep volume even when hitting only 5 for the weighted sets. Dec 11, 2021 at 19:36
  • @DaveLiepmann Maybe it's just that I've not followed a good program to make progress with dips. I can try yours, it looks like interesting. Moreover, with which exercise would you alternate it from one routine (of about 6 weeks) and the next one, ignoring the bench press?
    – Kinka-Byo
    Dec 11, 2021 at 21:37
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    I also experience pain in the shoulders when bench pressing. Instead I do push-ups with a weight vest, but I am not particularly strong.
    – Andy
    Dec 12, 2021 at 20:13
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    I don't have a strong recommendation for that purpose. There are lots of good pressing exercises and I think it's mostly up to preference through experimentation. Dec 13, 2021 at 11:17

2 Answers 2

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If I was experiencing pain in the bench press, I would aim to fix the problem, while only temporarily employing alternative exercises for chest hypertrophy.

Firstly, to answer your question, alternative exercises for chest hypertrophy would include chest flies (with dumbbells or cables), plus the push-ups and dips that you've already mentioned. However if you can do 30+ repetitions of pushups, then you would likely benefit from a more difficult, and ideally externally loadable, exercise choice.

However I wouldn't just abandon the bench press and seek to replace it with one of the above. I'd suggest reading up on strategies for managing pain in the gym, such as those published by Barbell Medicine (video, article), in which you would aim to find a way to complete the exercise without pain, and work back towards normality from there. Procedurally, this would look like:

  1. Try to find a lighter load that you can tolerate without pain.
  2. If the pain occurs at all loads, then try to find a reduced range of motion that you can perform without pain.
  3. If the pain occurs through all ranges of motion at all loads, only then consider alternate exercises to substitute. This would include firstly variations on the exercise that produces the pain, such as experimenting with flat-back vs arched-back benching, moving to an incline press, or failing those then moving to dips or pushups.
  4. Gradually attempt to work back towards being able to bench press at challenging loads. Reassess if the pain comes back.

If you know that you can perform pushups or dips without pain, then I'd be included to hugely reduce your load on the bench press, add in some pushups or dips to preserve strength, and then spend a month or two working back up to your original bench press weights, while gradually removing the dips as bench press became more challenging. I'd also ensure I was doing some direct work on the area where the pain occurred, such as one-arm DB rows, if it could be done without pain.

E.g. If you were benching 60kg for 10 reps for 3 sets, twice per week, and felt pain with any load heavier than 50kg, then an 8-week recovery program might look like this:

  1. Bench press 40kg 2x10, 1 set dips (gradually introducing the dips to give your shoulders a break and avoid DOMS from a sudden introduction of a new exercise)
  2. Bench press 42.5kg 2x10, 2 sets dips
  3. Bench press 45kg 2x10, 3 sets dips
  4. Bench press 47.5kg 2x10, 3 sets dips
  5. Bench press 50kg 3x10, 2 sets dips
  6. Bench press 52.5kg 3x10, 2 sets dips
  7. Bench press 55kg 3x10, 1 set dips
  8. Bench press 57.5kg 3x10
  9. Bench press 60kg 3x10
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  • Thank you very much for your description and recovery program. About the topic flat bench press vs arched bench press, what is your opinion? Does it make sense to try flat bench press despite the higher instability? Would you keep your shoulder-blades retracted also in flat bench press?
    – Kinka-Byo
    Dec 12, 2021 at 19:00
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    I'd say flat-back benching is just a longer range of motion, not necessarily more unstable. This potentially makes it better for hypertrophy, but definitely worse for powerlifting competition. The scapulae are still retracted as for an arched bench, you're try not trying to push your hips up the bench towards your shoulders. It does have the downside of making it harder to set up safety rails, as in an arched bench you set the rails so they're below the top of your arch, and can just relax down under the rails if you fail a rep. But there's less room to sink down after failing with flat-back. Dec 13, 2021 at 0:28
  • Perfect, thank you very much
    – Kinka-Byo
    Dec 13, 2021 at 11:27
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Such pain usually indicates weak links are being strengthened. There is in all likelihood nothing to worry about. A cramp most likely haha. Especially between scapula, since they brace for bench it's quite common to get pain there. Just work it out with some dynamic and active resistance stretching. Do pulls like DB row and get a good stretch and row it out. The pain will disappear on bench. 60% of max is good for the rows but do whatever. Sets to failure. 3x a week at least.

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