If you recently started a weightlifting program, way to go. Strength training is an awesome way to get stronger and burn more calories. Sometimes lifting weights, however, can lead to pain without a whole lot of gain. Sore muscles and chest pain from the bench press exercise is common and can be avoided. All you have to do is incorporate a few safety precautions for improving performance, and proper recovery.
Of Muscles and Mechanics
The muscles targeted and the actions used in the bench press is the same whether you use dumbbells or the barbell. When completing a press you use force to push the weight away from your body. When this occurs many muscles are activated, including the muscles of your arms and shoulders, which include the biceps, triceps and deltoids; the pectoralis major, which is a large muscle in your chest. Something as simple as too much weight or your grip could cause you to suffer from sore chest muscles.
Avoid Overuse and Abuse
If you’re experiencing pain and muscle soreness in your chest after completing the bench press, you could be suffering from a small muscular tear in your pectoralis -- but chances are, it’s an overuse injury. Overuse injuries can occur for many different reasons. Both errors in training and technique are two of the biggest contributors, according to MayoClinic.com. You’ll want to avoid taking on too much, too fast. Also, if you can, consider working with a professional trainer to help you perfect your technique.
Slow and Steady Always Wins
There are many things you can do to prevent chest soreness from the bench press. First, make sure you are wearing proper gear. Investing in a pair of gloves might help give you a better grip. Also, warm up before strength training. A brief five-minute walk, and a few arm circles, will help bring heat to your body. You should also spread out your strength-training sessions over the course of a week. Take a recovery day in between, and avoid doing back-to-back days. Slowly increase the amount of weight and repetitions. Also, work on your technique. Not moving through a full range of motion in any strength-training exercise can cause injury. Your range of motion can be compromised in the bench press if your grip is too wide. Finally, finish your workout with a simple stretching routine.
Rest, Recovery, Renew
Recovery is very important, especially when you have an injury. Before starting a time of rest or a recovery exercise, however, you should discuss the chest pain with your doctor. He may be able to determine whether it is a small tear or an overuse injury. He can also provide you tips for your recovery period, and maybe give you some gentle exercises to help strengthen your pectoralis muscles before continuing with your strength-training routine.
Shawnee Randolph is a yoga teacher and writer in Salem, Ore. She holds a Bachelor's degree in English: journalism from Corban University, and completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training at Heartsong Yoga in Beaverton, Ore.