Daily Mobility Exercises by Dr. Kelly Starrett Forums Back Low back pain during and after Bench Press

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    • #71089

      For a few months now I’ve noticed that my low back can start acting up on bench press. I mainly feel it in the left SI joint area. I thought that the extension position in my back during the movement might be irritating it. If I bench with feet up on the bench it seems a bit better. Last night I tried floor presses. If I have my legs bent it still seems to irritate the area. With straight legs and flexing glutes to keep a more neutral spine it was better. 

      After floor presses I did weight pushups up to half body weight added. On push-ups I don’t get the low back pain. Interestingly I think with dumbbell bench presses I get less pain in the low back. I’m wondering if lack of shoulder rotation could be contributing. With dumbbells I can keeps hands in a more neutral position than with a barbell.
      For squats and deadlifts I seem to be able to keep a neutral spine and I don’t notice any issues there even going heavy.
      Any suggestions on where I need to work?
      I have all the tools and am working various mobility items each day. I have many issues to work on but for this I’m not sure if I’m overlooking something that might be very helpful.
    • #75164
      AvatarKatie Hemphill

      Hey Doug,

      How long have you been training? Are you well-schooled in the bench, or self-taught? I’m going to make some assumptions below just to throw some ideas at you.
      Typically, when bench pressing, the lifter will use a “globally extended” (arched) spine position to create more stability through the shoulder. Doing this properly involves creating a nice, gradual arch through the whole spine, with particular attention to extending the upper back (thoracic spine). What often happens, however, is that an inexperienced lifter (or simply one with less than optimal bench technique) will arch more through the low back, creating a lot of local irritation and, quite frankly, a shittier position than when they started.
      There are a few things that might throw your arch out the window, chief among them being your ability to properly set up and maintain global extension during the lift. Most of the mwods with the “bench” tag will touch on creating global extension.
      Mobility-wise, if your thoracic spine is stiff, you won’t be able to create much of an arch there at all, which leads to your low back doing most of the moving. Also, if you are missing hip extension (stiff hip flexors), simply putting your feet on the floor (which is just good bench technique) will immediately put your low back into over-extension as your legs pull your pelvis out of place.

      If you’re able to post footage of you benching we might be able to shed more light on the issue.
      I hope something there helps!
    • #75172

      Thanks for the response iron tiger. 

      I’ve been training for over 25 years and powerlifting for more than half of the time. Also, I got my CSCS in 1998.
      Last night I had some positive results. I started off by hitting both internal and external shoulder rotation mobility. My internal rotation is very lacking. Then I did some barbell bench press and things felt better on the low back. I did use the slingshot to help reinforce the shoulder external rotation during the movement. In the past when I’ve tried the sling shot it hurt my shoulders which was probably an indicator of lack of internal shoulder rotation. 
      I’m thinking that because my shoulders lack the internal rotation that the bench press is causing excessive tension all the way down the back leading to pain in the SI joint area. I’m hopping with regular work on this I can get normal ROM and not have the lower back pain. 
      I will continue on this path unless there are other ideas.
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