Last updated on February 13th, 2023 at 11:46 am
Of all of the places you’d expect bench press to leave you feeling sore I’m guessing the hips wouldn’t feature too high on the list.
However, hip discomfort is something that many regular benchers will know only to well.
Here’s why this occurs and how to fix it.
The main reason your hips feel sore after bench press is because you’re not stretching enough. The muscles and ligaments of the body are all connected to each other in some way, even when it seems very unlikely. Plus, there is some core and lower body activation during the bench press, so it makes sense to stretch and stimulate these muscles. Additionally, having your legs too far apart, pushing too hard through the feet, allowing your hips to come up, or simply having a bad back position can cause soreness in the hips when you bench.
You’re Not Stretching Enough
Probably the major cause of injury through exercise is a lack of stretching.
For many of us, stretching is nothing more than an afterthought.
A few toes touches here, a couple of pec stretches there, and we’re good to go.
However, this simply isn’t enough.
In fact, in order to keep yourself strong and injury-free, stretching is where it’s at.
I would say that everyone should be stretching more than they think.
This could involve foam rolling both before and after your workout.
Various dynamic stretches as part of a warm-up to your workout.
Static stretches at the end of your session.
Stretch at home first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
And even stretch at your desk while you’re at work.
As long as you’re performing a wide variety of sensible stretches that are within your capabilities, you really can’t overdo it.
Plus, when it comes to training, stretch your entire body.
The muscles and ligaments are all connected to each other in one way or another.
So, I see nothing wrong with various lower body stretches before you bench press.
In fact, you’ll probably find that it helps.
You Have Tight Hip Flexors
Staying on the subject of stretching for a moment, your issue could be tight hip flexors.
As I’ve mentioned, your core, lower body, and the surrounding muscles do have a part to play during the bench press.
So, any weaknesses or tightness in these areas could certainly cause you hip pain.
Furthermore, for such a small group of muscles the hip flexors can cause a lot of problems.
And this isn’t just when it comes to benching or lifting weights.
In fact, tight or weak hip flexors can have a detrimental impact on your everyday life.
Believe it or not, issues with sleep, anxiety, sexual performance, digestion, and posture can all be attributed to tight hip flexors.
And this is actually just the tip of the iceberg.
So, if your hips feel sore after bench pressing, one of the first areas of the body I suggest you look at is the hip flexors.
You’re Benching Too Much Weight
Another extremely common issue when it comes to pain or injury is trying to lift too much weight.
And the bench press is certainly no different.
In fact, one of the main “bro” questions asked is, “How Much Do You Bench?”
We typically view the load that someone bench presses as a measure of manliness.
With that being said, personally I would be far more impressed by the weight you press over your head or how many pull ups you can do.
But for now, back to benching.
So, it does feel like there is pressure on all of us to constantly increase our bench press.
Unfortunately, this typically leads to sloppy form.
Plus, more-often-than-not when you attempt to bench a weight that you can’t handle you tend to bring momentum into the equation.
This usually means that you are using other body parts to press the weight.
I’m going to cover some of these in more detail below.
However, if you are feeling your hips when you bench it may be time to reduce the weight on the bar and concentrate on great technique.
Your Hips Are Coming Off the Bench
The first problem when it comes to benching too much weight is your hips coming off the bench.
No doubt, you’ve seen many others do this, and you’ve probably even done it yourself.
Basically, you’re trying to put every ounce of effort and strength into pressing that bar that you’re no longer able to stay flat on the bench.
I will say that the bench press is much more than simply a chest exercise.
So, there are other body parts being trained and stimulated.
Plus, I have said that the lower body has some involvement.
So, in effect, you could almost call the bench press a full-body exercise.
However, one thing you definitely don’t want to see is the hips and glutes coming away from the bench.
In essence, you end up performing some type of hybrid hip thrust, while you’re trying to hoist a heavy weight above your body.
This immediately places a great deal of stress on the hips and is probably why they’re so sore.
So, if you find that your hips (and glutes) are leaving the bench it’s time to drop some weight from the bar.
Your Legs Are Too Wide
Something else that often happens when you’re benching too much weight is that you end up spreading your legs far and wide.
Once again, you’ve probably seen others do this, and have no doubt done it yourself.
I’m not 100% sure why many of us end up in this position.
I can only assume that it’s because we’re trying to create a strong base and centre of gravity.
Yes, you can definitely bench heavy weights with the help of leg drive.
And I’ll cover this in more detail in just a moment.
However, your legs definitely shouldn’t be flailing all over the place.
Your legs should remain stationary and a comfortable width apart.
You’ll want your shins to remain as perpendicular as possible to the ground.
Plus, your feet should remain flat on the floor as well (if you’re someone who experiences hip pain).
But, in an attempt to press probably more weight than you can handle, your legs end up doing some of the weirdest things.
You may find that you end up pushing through your toes and your feet are pretty much inline with your hips.
You end up spreading your legs wide, perhaps one bent while the other one straight.
Any of these foot and leg positions is placing additional stress on the hips and hip flexors.
And this will explain the soreness that you’re feeling.
You’re Pushing Too Hard Through the Feet
Now, I did mention leg drive a moment ago.
And this is a “thing” when it comes to bench pressing.
In fact, I’ve included a fantastic video from Alan Thrall below.
This will teach you everything you need to know about leg drive during bench press.
However, most of the time, using leg drive goes against most of the things I’ve already said in this article.
Plus, your body positioning will actually put additional strain on the hips and hip flexors.
But, I’m willing to bet that Alan has fantastic flexibility and strength throughout his hips.
So, leg drive will definitely work for him.
But, leg drive while benching isn’t for everyone.
If you lack this flexibility and strength in your hips, then unfortunately you’re going to feel sore in this area afterwards.
Some of you may not even be using leg drive effectively and simply push your feet as hard as possible into the ground.
But, if you lack hip strength and flexibility you’re really going to feel this in your hips.
The harder you push your feet into the ground, the more you’ll feel it in your hips.
This all comes down to stretching and your hip flexors once more.
Additionally, the reason that you’re having to push your feet so hard into the ground is probably because you’re trying to bench too much weight.
You Have Poor Back Position
Finally, the position of your back during the bench press may be causing you sore hips.
It’s definitely okay to have an arch in your back when you bench press.
However, how you arch your back can certainly cause you some issues.
If you have poor back positioning you’re likely to put an incredible strain on your lower back.
Plus, this will also transfer to your hips.
So, you may have sore hips today, but this could end up being a serious lower back injury tomorrow.
Then again, back arch involves digging your traps into the bench, which can actually cause some lifters trap pain when they bench press.
Therefore, if you are going to back arch when you bench then do it properly.
Back to Alan once more.
Key Learning Points
- Hip soreness could be a sign of a lack of flexibility. Therefore, perform dynamic stretches prior to benching and static stretches afterwards.
- Tight hip flexors are one of the most common causes of hip discomfort.
- If you allow your hips and glutes to come away from the bench during the press you’ll place much more stress on the hips and hip flexors.
- It’s likely you’re using momentum (and other body parts) to move the bar if you’re benching more weight than you can handle.
- Having your legs too wide places additional stress on the hips and hip flexors.
- Leg drive is a legitimate bench press tactic. However, it does require a decent level of flexibility. Forcing your feet too hard into the floor will activate your hips and hip flexors to a far greater degree.
- Using back arch while benching is fine, but the more you arch, the more stress you’ll place onto the hips.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.