A wide grip on the bar increases your risk of shoulder injury.
Because of the position that your shoulders are placed in when performing bench press, the exercise can potentially be dangerous. Although not everyone suffers from shoulder problems, the bench press can cause serious issues that can require you to stop exercising, participate in physical rehabilitation and, in some cases, have surgery. But there are technique tweaks you can employ to reduce the stress on your shoulders and significantly lower your risk of injury.
Issue with the Bench Press
When you perform the bench press, as you lower the bar to your chest, your shoulders both externally rotate and abduct. This combination of movement at the shoulders, according to Dr. Robert DuVall of Sports Medicine of Atlanta, stresses the anterior capsule of your joint and can therefore lead to hyperlaxity and instability.
Hyperlaxity and Instability
If your shoulder joints suffer from hyperlaxity and instability, it means that the ligaments and other musculoskeletal structures that are meant to keep your joint secure have been overstretched and are now too loose to do their job adequately. This causes the rotator cuff muscles that hold your humerus bone into your shoulder capsule to have to work even harder, which can in turn cause them to fatigue and swell, leading to their inflammation. When your muscles' tendons suffer from inflammation and irritation, or tendinitis occurs, the tendons can rub against or get pinched in between the other bony structures in the joint. This can lead to shoulder impingement. Unfortunately, in many cases surgery is needed to fix the problem.
Tweaking Your Grip
By bringing your hands into a more narrow position, you reduce the amount of both shoulder external rotation and abduction that occurs as you lower the bar. Instead, your shoulders perform extension, which means your elbows stay in closer to your torso throughout the movement, thus reducing the stress placed on your anterior capsule. When reaching up to grip the bar, limit your hand space to 1 1/2 times the width of your shoulder.
Stop Short of the Chest
Another way to help reduce the stress placed on your shoulders is to not lower the bar all the way to your chest. When you do, your upper arms get to a point where they're lower than your torso, causing you to stretch the anterior capsule. If you stop the bar with 1 to 2 inches to go before reaching the chest, your upper arms stop once they become in line with your torso and there's less pull on your shoulders. If you need help to remember, place a rolled up towel or a small block on your sternum when bench pressing.