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  • Writer's pictureCoach Matt Pippin

Save Your Shoulders With These 2 Bench Press Alternatives

How sick are you of being told to stop benching because your shoulders are always hurting? There’s gotta be another way to give your shoulders a break without giving up benching completely, right?

You’re in luck because in today’s coaching, I’m not going to tell you NOT to bench…I’m going to give you a couple of alternatives to keep your bench gains while you’re working on that shoulder mobility.


With a typical bench, as you descend toward your chest, the shoulder mobility requirements go up, so the closer the bar gets to your chest, the more internal rotation of the shoulder it requires and that’s what’s aggravating it. Simple as that.


What I love about these alternatives is that they’ll not only preserve your shoulders while you work on that mobility, they’ll also help you work new lines of tissue and break through sticking points. Isn’t multi-tasking the best?

Option #1: Netural Grip Dumbbell Press

Neutral grip dumbbell presses are a great shoulder friendly bench press alternative where we use some different shoulder patterns to build strength, while avoiding movements that are causing you pain.

What happens is, as you start to descend with a traditional bench press, the shoulder mobility requirements go up. The closer the bar gets to your chest, it requires more internal rotation of your shoulder and that's where the pain sets in. By using a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip, we're eliminating all of that.

How to Perform a Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press

  • Grab dumbbells and get into your normal bench press setup

  • Holding the dumbbells with a neutral grip (your palms facing each other), push up and hold the dumbbells directly over your shoulders

  • Slowly descend and pause where you feel safe, with your wrists directly over your elbows

  • Push back up and repeat

Equipment needed: 2 dumbbells weighing a little less than if you were doing a regular flat dumbbell press because this neutral grip can feel a little funky until you get used to it.

The best shoulder friendly bench press alternative

Option #2: Barbell Press With Pause

With this variation, you'll bench with a regular barbell, but will eliminate the amount of depth we typically use. Don't worry, you get a ton of strength benefits from holding the position at the bottom, which is usually where people get stuck when benching. It's great because you're killing two birds with one stone by being able to continue benching while you work on your shoulders, and when they're better, you'll blast through that nasty sticking point at the bottom.

How to Perform a Barbell Press With Pause

  • Get into your normal bench press setup

  • Slowly descend and stop when the bar is 4-6 inches off of your chest

  • Hold here for a 2-count

  • Explode out of the movement as you push up

  • Reset your bench position at the top and repeat

Equipment needed: A barbell with a little less weight than you'd normally use since you'll be holding the weight at the bottom.

The best bench press alternative for shoulder pain


You need to realize you have a mobility problem going on in those shoulders. We dive into the details on that in this blog on how to deal with shoulder pain from benching or push ups, but in the meantime, I’ve put together my go-to-mobility tools you can get for free in the link below and it includes the best shoulder exercise you can do…right now…to eliminate that shoulder pain.



It's understandable to be super frustrated with this shoulder pain, especially if you've tried a bunch of things. I can't tell you how many clients I've worked with that have the same story and are sick of the setbacks, which is why I've spent a lot of time sharing resources on the topic.



Matt is a Strength and Mobility Coach with over 15 years experience in his field and has coached over a thousand professional, collegiate and everyday athletes with the goal to help them move, feel and perform at their highest level. He's incredibly passionate about bringing simple and effective online mobility training programs to everyone who wants to take control of their self care and make lasting change. CLICK HERE to learn more.


  • NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

  • Level 3: Fascial Stretch Specialist

  • Level 1: Institute of Motion Health Coach

  • Certified FRC Mobility Specialist (FRCms)

  • Level 1 Kinstretch Instructor

  • Weck Method Qualified


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