5 Shoulder Modifications for Pain Free Pressing

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The shoulder is a very unique joint. There are no other joints in the body that really compare to it.

The shoulder has the most total range of motion out of any joint in the body. It compares to the hip in structure, but it can move a lot more.

Having a ton of range of motion can be problematic though. The most moveable joints become the less stable. Less stable joints can become injured pretty easily.

I am willing to bet you know someone with a shoulder injury but it is a lot less likely to make a general statement about hand injuries for example. The hand does not have as much mobility (almost none actually) which means it usually only gets hurt when it is smashed by something.

A contributing factor to shoulder injuries is the fact that most activities can damage the structures of the shoulder.

Lifting things, throwing, and other normal household/work activities can beat up on the tendons and ligaments.

Posture can also affect these structures. Trying to perform activities with rounded shoulders does not leave a lot of room for the humerus to move.

If you want an example, pretend you are a hunchback. Now try to reach overhead. This doesn’t work too well.

Now stand up tall, stick your chest out, and try again. It moves a lot better now.

What does this all mean? Buy a giant human hamster ball and never lift anything? Unrealistic.

*Note: I have never bought anything off of the site in the link above but they at least have some fun stuff to talk about. If anyone has any cool stories from it feel free to share.

The best thing that you can do is manage a shoulder that gets beat up.

As our technology gets better, our posture gets worse. Computers, smart phones, and tablets all have people slumping more than ever.

There are so many things that can go wrong when the shoulder is out of alignment. Most of them cause a lot of pain.  

A lot of this pain can be exacerbated at the gym.

Pressing is a good way to train for upper body strength. It is also one of the more risky groups of exercises.

Bench presses and shoulder/military presses are both classic exercises. A lot of old school lifters have garbage shoulders. I can’t prove it but there may be a relationship.

Too many people are walking around with rotator cuff tears, torn labrums, and all kinds of impingement. Spending a lot of time in poor alignment can beat the crap out of the joint. Then when it is time to lift heavy, the shoulder goes.

It was not the exercise that may have caused the pain but it was the activity that was the last straw.

Luckily, there are numerous ways to protect/recover from painful shoulders.

Disclaimer: pain should be checked out by the proper medical professional before trying to fight through it. These tips can help but sometimes the original issue requires surgery, rehab, etc.

5 Shoulder Modifications for Pain Free Pressing

1.      Neutral grip

The neutral grip is a preferred method for using dumbbells with those that have aches and pains in the shoulder. This grip keeps the humerus in a more centralized position that does not stress the ligaments and tendons as much.

There are also specialty barbells that allow for neutral grip pressing.

This grip still elicits muscular activity from the same groups but takes pressure off of the shoulder joint.


2.      Kettlebell

Pressing a kettlebell can relieve some pain that occurs with barbell and some dumbbell pressing.

Kettlebells have a unique shape and therefore a different weight distribution. This allows the scapula to move more than with other means of pressing.

Try a tall kneeling version of a single arm kettlebell press.

3.      Landmines

Landmines are almost a compromise between horizontal (chest)  and vertical (shoulder) pressing.

Named after the piece of equipment, these variations can be helpful in reducing shoulder pain while building strength.

These automatically are done with a neutral grip and they are also performed without a bench. This means that the shoulder blades are not pinned down by the bench, creating a second measure of injury prevention.

These can be performed with one arm, two arms, standing, tall kneeling, half kneeling, split stance, split squat, and with a push. I am also sure there are other ways too, so be creative.


4.      Cables

Horizontal pressing on a cable machine has become a solid go-to variation away from dumbbell work. Bands also work for this purpose.

Similar to a cable fly, cable pressing provides the same benefits as a Landmine press through true horizontal pressing.

Performing these with a single arm also challenged the core to force anti-rotation and believe me, the core is going to want to rotate when the weight is adequate.


5.      Pushups

I have talked at length about the benefits and different variations of pushups. They are great for the shoulder and can really make a difference when it comes to upper body strength.

The purpose of this article is to create a few avenues for shoulder healthy upper body pressing.

I have had clients see great improvements, or lose symptoms completely when just incorporating a couple of these methods.

Do not let the old school approach leave you in pain. Take the measures now for a strong upper body that will last a long time.