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Trap soreness is normal after bench press, but excessive or persistent soreness over a long period may indicate some underlying issues you need to address.
So why are your traps sore after bench press, and how do you fix it? Your traps may be sore after bench press because you have improper posture or create too much tension in the mid to upper back. You can fix this by correcting your bench press technique, improving your overall posture, implementing a bench prep routine, and programming a rehab protocol.
In this article, I will discuss whether or not trap soreness after benching is bad, why your traps are sore after bench press, and what to do about it.
Without further ado, let's begin!
Is It Bad If Your Traps Are Sore After Bench Press?
Having sore muscles after bench press can mean one of three things:
- Poor positioning during bench press
- Poor shoulder mobility
- Lack of bench preparedness
However, it's not necessarily bad if your traps are sore after bench press unless you have a major injury or the soreness is so severe that it's impacting your entire workout.
Trap soreness is often the natural outcome when implementing bench press. However, excessive soreness over a longer period can indicate some underlying training issues, which I’ll discuss below.
You can tell if the experienced trap soreness is problematic when it interferes with regular daily activities or if it overly impedes your ability to perform bench presses or other upper extremity exercises.
4 Reasons Why You Have Sore Traps After Bench
1. Improper Posture
Improper posture outside of the gym and when you bench can place higher stress on the traps rather than the chest.
Common postural mistakes I see while benching are forward shoulders or overproduction of tension in the mid to upper back. Additionally, throughout the day, proper alignment of the joints is fundamental to a well-functioning system.
Improper posture can commonly result in neck, trap, or back pain and can be further exacerbated when doing high-stress activities such as bench presses.
2. Poor Technique
Poor technique during the bench press can cause a loss of positioning with the shoulders coming forward or losing an efficient bar path. Subsequently, this could lead to overactive traps.
Overactive traps can be the result of poor shoulder mobility or ineffective technique. Poor mobility or technique can be due to low training age, past injury, or slow development of bad training/lifestyle habits over time.
Later in this article, I will dive deeper into technical corrections and bench prep that should diminish trap soreness after bench pressing.
Training the bench press too often can lead to a decline in performance, which can subsequently affect your muscles, including the traps.
Typical training, session to session, will fatigue the primary muscles used in the bench press, which are the pecs and triceps.
Nonfunctional overreaching syndrome occurs when an individual trains too hard for too long. It can lead to decreased bench press performance accompanied by hormonal and psychological issues.
Overtraining the bench press can lead to soreness or dysfunction in the surrounding musculature, including the traps, lats, shoulders, and mid-back.
4. Lack of Readiness
Without a proper bench prep protocol, readiness to perform will be suboptimal, affecting soreness in the traps.
Proper bench press warm-up protocols are fundamental to shoulder, pec, and trap health, as well as performance in the gym.
4 Things to Do if Your Traps Are Sore After Bench Press
1. Change Your Bench Press Technique
Correcting your bench technique can help promote longevity in training and decrease trap soreness.
Below are several key ways to set up for bench and to program bench presses with the goal of decreasing trap soreness.
Bench Press Set Up:
- Ensure the j-hooks are set up to be just short of elbow extension.
- Use the weight of the bar to pin the shoulders and traps underneath.
- Build downward tension into the shoulders and traps while opening up the chest.
- Tighten the pressure on the outside of your grip while thinking about closing your armpits to increase lat tension.
- Simultaneously build an arch in the mid-back to protect the shoulders.
- Gently plant hips and feet to lock yourself into the bench.
Program Implements To Improve Bench Press Technique:
- Increase bench press frequency to 3-4 times a week.
- Utilize higher set protocols of 3-5 sets to create more opportunities to practice.
- Utilize higher rep protocols from 6-8 reps to allow for more technical practice.
- Aim to always have 3-4 reps in reserve to minimize technical breakdown. Having reps in the tank at the end of a set (meaning you could perform more reps if you need to before your form breaks down) allows for more effective technical execution, set after set.
- Perform tempo reps to slow the descent and maintain tension at the bottom position. Performing the bench press with a 3-count lowering phase allows you to control the trajectory of the bottom position of the bench press. Additionally, tempo reps allow you to achieve greater muscle activation from the chest and triceps.
- Incorporate paused reps to increase the ability to maintain tension at the bottom position. A 2-4 count pause at the bottom of a bench press allows you to be comfortable in that position and subsequently be able to press off the chest with a forceful push.
Implementing these cues and programming changes can improve your bench press and decrease overall soreness, especially in the traps.
I provide more cues that can also help strengthen your bench press overall in 13 Bench Press Cues For Max Strength (With Pictures).
2. Increase Overall Posture
Proper posture is especially important during the day to prevent any excessive soreness in the traps.
How to have proper posture:
- Stand up or sit up straight.
- Keep your head in line with the base of the neck without letting it fall forward.
- Have a big open chest with the shoulders sitting down and back.
- Keep your back flat with minimal arch or rounding.
- Keep your ribs directly over the hips.
- Avoid overly tucking or arching your hips, and keep them neutral.
While benching, you should aim to avoid having a forward neck and head, as it causes strain on the traps and neck muscles. Instead, tuck your chin and bring your head as far back as possible to help correct this.
Increasing your posture when performing the bench press and during your daily routines will help reduce trap soreness while benching.
3. Incorporate a Good Bench Prep Routine
Implementing an effective system of exercises and a warm-up bench press routine is fundamental to physical preparedness.
A ramping protocol can look like this:
- 5 repetitions at 40% of daily load
- 3 repetitions at 60% of daily load
- 1 repetition at 70-80% of daily load
- 1 repetition at 80-90% of daily load
- Begin bench session for the day
A bench press movement prep series can look like this:
- Blackburns 1 x 10
- Banded pull-aparts 1 x 10
- Cuban Press 1 x 10
- Lat pulldowns 1 x 20
- Open barbell overhead press 1 x 10
- Open barbell row 1 x 10
Utilize this exercise series to fully prepare all of the muscles involved with the bench press and subsequently decrease trap soreness or tightness over time.
4. Follow a Proper Rehab Protocol to Address Excessive Soreness
Unhealthy joints or past injuries can lead to ineffective benching, resulting in soreness in the traps and surrounding areas (shoulders, lats, mid-back, and neck).
If this type of soreness persists after improving bench press technique and posture and implementing a bench prep routine, it may be beneficial to incorporate a rehab protocol.
A rehab protocol can look like:
- Open book x 10 ea
- Foam roller lat stretch x 15-30 seconds
- Upper back prayer stretch x 15-30 seconds
- Window washing x 5 ea
- No monies x 10
- Drawing the sword x 10 ea
Provided are a combination of shoulder, lat, and mid-back mobility drills designed to open you up and better prepare you for bench press.
How to Prevent Sore Traps When Bench Pressing
Being conscious of your current posture and implementing a system of stretches and soft tissue work pre- or post-workout can be fundamental to preventing trap soreness.
Here is a soft tissue series that you can implement into your training:
- Barbell trap rollout 1 x 5 each side
- Upper back foam roll 1 x 10
- Lat foam roll 1 x 10 each side
- Pec foam roll 1 x 10 each side
Here is a foam roller mobility series that you can implement into your training:
- Foam roller shoulder punches x 10
- Foam roller shoulder rolls x 10 forward/backward
- Foam roller snow angels x 10
- Foam roller posture hugs x 10
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Are My Traps Sore After Bench Press?
Trap pain or soreness can be due to a rigorous shoulder or bench press workout but can also result from improper technique or poor posture. Poor posture can be especially relevant when you are sedentary or play sports such as swimming or baseball that require constant use of the shoulders and neck muscles.
Does Bench Press Work Your Traps?
The traps act as stabilizing muscles to maintain positioning during the bench press. However, the traps can become overactive if there is a lack of stability during bench presses or if you are building too much mid-back tension to get into position.
Can You Still Train if Your Traps Are Sore from Bench Pressing?
You can train bench presses if your traps are sore, but you’ll need to add weight to the bar progressively. Start at 40% of daily load for 5 reps and add weight and decrease reps until you reach 80-90% of daily load. You should also do exercises like banded pull-aparts and Cuban presses for 1 set of 10 each to warm up.
Having sore traps after bench pressing isn’t inherently a bad thing. However, if this issue persists or interferes with your performance consistently, it might be something to look into.
Having a good bench prep routine, increasing technical proficiency and posture, and implementing a rehab protocol are fundamental to preventing and minimizing trap soreness.
What To Read Next
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About The Author
Javad Bakhshinejad was born and raised in the Washington Area. Currently, he is a student at Seattle University where he’s been pursuing an MS in Kinesiology, and has been a Strength Coach in the athletic department. He was a competitive bodybuilder for 8 years where he later transitioned to competitive powerlifting for 4 years. Currently, He has his own personal coaching business, where he works with powerlifters and bodybuilders.