Question from Alex from Colorado:
The guy I workout with is having pain in his right pectoral. The pain is mild while pressing on the flat bench but flares up to heavy pain once the bar is racked. He is working out with weight in the 350 to 425 range. Range of motion is intentionally limited to elbows at 90 degree angles. No bar hitting the chest. What can he do to limit the pain? Do you think this is the early warning sign of a torn pec? What exercise would you recommend to continue working the chest without potentially worsening the irritated muscle?
Answer from Jaret Grossman, Co-Founder of Muscle Prodigy:
As far as your buddy’s injury, I am unsure as to what is causing his pain, but it can certainly be a strain, pull, or potentially a tear. In any of these cases, he can’t do anything to it that is going to aggravate it any more or make the condition worse. You don’t need to throw up heavy weight like that to build muscle so he needs to lower the weight. Anytime he feels pain, he can’t push through it in an effort to avoid being a wussy. Your body speaks to you for a reason…listen to it. Pain is not good. There are other exercises I’m sure he can perform that won’t cause pain that still develops muscle. A pull can turn into a tear and a tear can turn into a lingering injury that will stay with him for years. He needs to be extremely careful.
As far as exercises to perform, tell him to try incline weighted push ups, regular push ups as superset burnouts, dumbbell presses (incline and flat), dumbbell flyes, seated chest press, close grip hammer db press, etc. Tell him to do trial and error and see where he develops pain and to alter the program to one that minimizes pain. He’s probably going to have to do exercises where he keeps his arms in close to his body so things like flyes and cable crossovers where his arms are extended to do the movement will be too much for his pectoral to handle. Moreover, on a bench press the bar should not hit the chest, but should come a couple of inches above your chest to retain constant tension and prevent injury to your delicate shoulder. Not only does it stop constant tension on the muscles when you hit your chest but it allows for a bounce which invokes momentum (something to avoid at all costs) as well as severe damage to your shoulder. Build muscle the smart way and be injury free!
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