Last updated on October 31st, 2022 at 01:08 pm
Are you also wondering, “Why Does My Stomach Hurt When I Bench Press?”
It shouldn’t seem right, does it?
I mean, the bench press is a chest exercise, although you may often feel the movement in secondary muscles or joints.
However, surely you should never be feeling bench press in your stomach?
That being said, it is actually a fairly common occurrence, so I’ll explain the reasons why (and the solutions) to you now.
Why Does My Stomach Hurt When I Bench Press?
There are numerous reasons why your stomach hurts when you bench press. Firstly, you should be aware that your core needs to stabilise whenever you bench press. So, your abs are being activated anyway. Furthermore, excessive use of back arch or leg drive will generally stretch the ab muscles, while stimulating them even more. Plus, if your stomach hurts when you bench press, this could also be a sign of weak abs.
Your Core Muscles Need to Stabilise While You Bench Press
Firstly, I think it’s important to understand that your abs and core muscles play a role during the bench press.
In fact, I would actually say that your core plays a role in every single exercise you ever perform.
You could say that all movements initially stem from your core.
And the bench press, even though it is primarily a chest exercise, is certainly no different.
So, whenever you bench, your abs and core muscles will need to stabilise in order to support your upper body.
Furthermore, this core stabilisation also helps you work against the forces of gravity, as you press a bar up and lower it back down while lying in a supine position.
I will also say that this core activation is even more noticeable as your bench press becomes more intense.
So, as an example, you’re likely to feel your stomach much more when you attempt a 3-rep max when compared to a simple warm-up.
Therefore, it is perfectly normal to feel your stomach ever so slightly when you bench press.
However, if the feeling manifests itself as acute pain, or it stops you from benching effectively, this points to something untoward.
This is generally down to poor form or perhaps certain muscle weaknesses.
And I’ll cover these in more detail now.
Are You Using Back Arch?
Something to consider if your stomach is hurting from bench press is the use of back arch.
And this is especially true if you’re excessively arching your back.
Now, don’t get me wrong, back arching while bench pressing is a perfectly legitimate technique.
This is a great way to decrease the range of motion, protect your shoulder joint, and of course, to bench press more weight.
Admittedly, whether you should use back arch when you bench press will largely depend on why you’re performing the movement.
What I mean by this is that the benefits I have described above are specifically geared towards training bench for strength.
Basically, you’re trying to lift as much weight as possible, therefore it makes sense to reduce the range of motion, while providing yourself with an extremely stable base.
That being said, if you’re training for hypertrophy then you’ll obviously want to ensure that you bench with a full range of motion, while increasing time-under-tension.
However, if you do happen to use back arch then this could potentially explain the feeling in your stomach.
If you think about it whenever you arch your back you are in effect stretching the abdominal muscles.
So, yet again, your abs are going through a great deal while you bench, and this could explain why your stomach hurts.
Are You Using Leg Drive?
Something else that many people do when they bench press is to use leg drive.
Once more, this is a perfectly legitimate bench press technique.
However, yet again, the use of leg drive may have an impact on your stomach and your core in general.
Now, you would initially think that the use of leg drive would be felt in your quads, your hips and hip flexors.
This is obviously true, although this will also depend on your overall flexibility and mobility.
That being said, using leg drive will once more activate the abdominal muscles.
Plus, let’s not forget that your abs have already been activated anyway, simply to stabilise your body while you’re benching.
In fact, you’ll generally find that when you really push with your feet, you’ll often feel your abs working anyway.
A prime example of this is when you perform deadlifts and leg press.
Both of these are obviously lower body exercises, which require you to push with your feet in order to move a load.
However, this simple pushing movement through your feet and your legs will automatically activate the abs.
This is simply your body’s way of protecting your midsection and lower back while you move a heavy load with your legs.
So, as unconventional as it sounds, pushing with your feet, while using your major leg muscles, will always lead to some core involvement.
Your Bench Arch Isn’t Helping You – How to Leg Drive
Your Abs Are Weak
The final reason that your stomach hurts when you bench press comes down to muscle weakness.
More specifically, this is probably a sign that your abs are weak.
Realistically, if you’re feeling pain in a muscle that you’re not even directly working, it’s likely that this muscle is lagging behind.
And in truth, I often feel that most people are either all in or do very little when it comes to direct ab and core work.
However, as I’ve mentioned, the vast majority of movements we make, whether in the gym or outside, will typically originate from our core.
So, if your muscles are weak then you’re going to feel it.
Therefore, it’s a case of having to work on your core strength, which in turn can actually vastly improve your bench press anyway.
Personally, if I feel I have a muscle weakness then I like to give it priority.
So, this would typically involve 10-15 minutes of core work at the beginning of my workout while I’m still fresh, at least 3-4 times a week.
That being said, remember the abs and core are also muscles, and therefore they require adequate rest and recovery in order to get stronger.
So, as you can see, there are a variety of reasons why your stomach hurts when you bench press.
However, it’s important to remember that your abs will always be activated whenever you bench press, so this will mean that you’re likely to feel your stomach muscles working.
That being said, if you use back arch and leg drive when benching, you’re going to stimulate the stomach muscles even more.
Finally, this could also mean that your abs are weak, so it makes sense to work on your core training to overcome your potential muscle weakness.
If you think feeling bench press in your stomach is a little weird then you’ll definitely want to read my article about feeling bench press in your glutes.
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.