Last updated on October 15th, 2022 at 02:15 pm
I’m sure it’s something that’s weirded you out before, “Why Does My Shoulder Pop When I Bench Press?”
However, shoulder popping or clicking during the bench press is actually a common occurrence.
More often than not, the popping isn’t accompanied by any pain, but it certainly doesn’t feel right.
Then again, perhaps every time you shoulder clicks it hurts, plus it’s really starting to affect your bench press, and your overall mobility.
Allow me to explain why shoulder popping occurs when you bench press and what you can do about it.
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Why Does My Shoulder Pop When I Bench Press?
There are various reasons why your shoulder pops when you bench press. Firstly, this could be due to shoulder impingement caused by rotator cuff tendon inflammation. This causes the tendons of the rotator cuff to become pinched inside the shoulder joint. Then when the rotator cuff moves as you bench press you’ll hear and feel a popping sensation. Shoulder popping can also occur if you haven’t properly warmed up your shoulders prior to benching. Plus, you should ensure your bench press form is correct, e.g. shoulder blades retracted, elbows tucked, wrists straight, feet in the floor, etc.
1. Shoulder Impingements or Injuries
You may immediately think that there’s something wrong or that you’re carrying an injury whenever you feel or hear shoulder popping.
And unfortunately this can sometimes be the case.
The most common reason for the popping is a shoulder impingement.
This typically occurs due to inflammation of the tendons of the rotator cuff, often called rotator cuff tendinitis.
Basically, the tendons of the rotator cuff become inflamed, most commonly from overuse.
This means that the tendons can easily become pinched inside the shoulder joint.
So, whenever you move the shoulder and rotator cuff it rubs over the inflamed tendons and causes the popping sound and feeling.
Shoulder impingement is actually extremely common for people who lift weights.
And it is more apparent when performing overhead movements, such as the shoulder press, lateral raises, and bench press.
Something else that often happens is that a tendon pops as it moves over the top of a bone.
Your tendons should generally move smoothly along your bones.
However, they can occasionally “get stuck” and will then snap as they pass over a bone.
This isn’t usually a problem, but continued snapping over a bone can lead to the tendons becoming inflamed.
The only real option if this is the case is physiotherapy.
So, you can contact your Doctor, who will be able to refer you to a physiotherapist.
2. You’re Not Warming Up Correctly
Your bench press popping shoulder could be caused by something as simple as not warming up correctly.
Let’s face facts, we can all be somewhat lackadaisical when it comes to warming up prior to lifting weights.
In fact, I have often seen gym-goers make their way straight over to the bench press area the second they walk into the gym.
Their warm up consists of a few reps of empty bar benching followed by a quick set at a light weight.
Then they steam straight into a heavy set of bench presses.
Trust me, this is not warming up, and it’s likely to eventually lead to an injury.
The whole point in warming up prior to lifting is to get the blood flowing around your body, the joints lubricated, and the muscles primed and ready for action.
So, a few reps of light bench presses certainly isn’t going to cut it.
I have a preference for using resistance bands and cable exercises to achieve this prior to benching.
So, this would typically involve band pull aparts, face pulls, shoulder internal and external rotations, etc.
Additionally, it’s extremely important to get the joints warm and well-lubricated before any exercise.
The Ultimate Bench Press Warm Up
3. You’re Not Retracting Your Shoulder Blades
A common cue for the bench press (and many other exercises) is to retract the shoulder blades first.
In effect, you are pulling the shoulder blades back and down.
I have often likened this to trying to tuck your shoulder blades into your back pockets, or trying to hold an imaginary tennis ball between your shoulder blades.
The main reason to do this is to provide a stable and compact base from which to bench from, while providing protection for your shoulders and rotator cuff.
However, far too often I see lifters completely ignore this cue prior to benching.
Unfortunately, the longer you bench without proper scapular retraction, the closer you’re getting to some type of shoulder injury.
This may initially start out as shoulder popping or clicking, but can eventually lead to something far worse.
I’ve mentioned warming up correctly, plus also using exercises like band pull aparts and face pulls.
Both these exercises actually allow you to retract the shoulder blades into the perfect position for benching.
So, there’s even more reason to perform these exercises.
Another cue to ensure that your shoulder blades are retracted properly is that your back won’t be completely flat on the bench.
In essence, through proper scapular retraction the top of your back will be slightly elevated off the bench, while your shoulder blades remain in contact.
4. Your Bench Press Form is Off
Retracting your shoulder blades is certainly one of the most important form cues prior to benching, but there are also many others.
And if you don’t get your form on-point there is a greater chance of you placing pressure on the shoulders, which in turn can lead to popping and clicking.
One factor you should always be aware of is your elbow positioning.
Firstly, there are a few schools of thought about flaring or tucking the elbows while benching.
However, for me, the optimal position is to have your elbows slightly tucked at all times.
This once more provides a more stable and compact base, while providing protection for your shoulder health.
You’ll also want to ensure that your elbows remain underneath the bar at all times.
A few other important form cues include keeping your wrists straight, your glutes contracted, and your feet on the floor.
As unrelated as some of these things may sound, not adhering to proper form can place additional stress on the shoulders while benching.
Basically, you’re placing undue pressure on the shoulders each and every time you bench.
Over time, this may eventually cause rotator cuff and shoulder blade issues, as well as inflaming the tendons.
And this all leads us back to where we began – your shoulders pop whenever you bench press.
I hope you have a better understanding of why your shoulders pop when you bench press.
The most common reason is typically due to a shoulder impingement.
Unfortunately, this can cause the tendons of the rotator cuff to become inflamed, as well as being pinched inside the shoulder joint.
So, any movement of the shoulder or rotator cuff will cause a popping noise as they rub over the pinched tendon.
You should also make sure that you warm up thoroughly prior to bench, and this includes working the shoulders and rotator cuff.
There are also various bench press form cues that you should adhere to.
These will ensure that your shoulders are stable and compact, thus allowing you to bench pop and click-free.
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.