The bench press is legendary. It’s never been replaced as a measure of strength. However, for as much upper-body muscle that it has helped build, it’s also been the culprit behind just as many injuries, such as strained tendons and torn rotator cuffs. The reason is fairly simple: If the bar hits your chest when you’re pressing, you’re most likely at risk.
Many men do this, and it’s often more of a problem as they get older and less mobile. When the bar drops fully to the chest, the elbows splay out at the bottom of the movement. Lifting the barbell off the chest from that position places a ton of pressure on the shoulder joint. And going all the way down doesn’t make a difference for muscle-building—it can actually hurt it.
To find out how far down the bar should go, stand holding a broom handle or PVC pipe in both hands, arms stretched out in front of chest. Keeping elbows close to body, draw handle (or pipe) toward chest. Stop just before elbows begin to splay—probably a few inches above chest. That’s as low as you should go when you’re bench pressing to avoid injury.
This method actually ensures you’re doing more to keep your targeted muscle groups under tension, which in turn promotes more muscle building.
The bench press is a weightlifting move that you can do all your life—but only if you’re doing it right.