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Shoulder Pain & Overhead Pressing

A lot of gym users need to perform shoulder mobility exercises before they should even consider pushing a weight overhead. 


The postural adaptations of our everyday life has implications on shoulder function. Shoulder pain on overhead pressing is an inevitability for most people, and if ignored can lead to ongoing shoulder issues.


Have you heard of the SITS muscles?

These are the four muscles that form the rotator cuff; Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis. Each one of these muscles has a specific role to play in the movement and stability of the shoulder joint:


  • Supraspinatus,This holds your humerus in place, keeps your upper arm stable, and helps lift your arm.
  • Infraspinatus, This is the main muscle that lets you rotate and extend your shoulder.
  • Teres Minor, This is the smallest rotator cuff muscle. Its main job is to assist with rotation of the arm away from the body.
  • Subscapularis, This holds your upper arm bone to your shoulder blade and helps you rotate your arm, hold it straight out and lower it.

When shoulder mobility is inhibited as a result of poor posture, performing an exercise such as an overhead barbell press can and overload any one of these muscles(most likely the infraspinatus), resulting in pain in the shoulder joint / down the arm.

Any one of the other muscles that form the rotator cuff can also become implicated, resulting in limited range of motion of the shoulder joint, and pain on specific movements such as putting on your seatbelt, reaching back to grab something and putting a jacket on.


Does this mean you shouldn’t perform an overhead press? No, but you should make sure you have the relevant mobility before you try.


Test shoulder mobility before overhead pressing.

Take a broom handle with a pronated(overhand grip), hands spaced a little wider than shoulder distance apart. Start with the broom handle placed against your waist and slowly raise the bar in front of you, and above your head. Keep going until you feel a restriction in your movement. Stop the movement and assess the position of the bar. If the bar is positioned directly above the head, or behind, then you should be ok to perform an overhead press. But I suggest beginning on a single arm, dumbbell press.


If the broom handle is in a position in front of the head, then you need to spend some time improving your mobility before you attempt to load the shoulder joint with a weight in a position/movement pattern it doesn’t like.


If you happen to be suffering with shoulder pain, there’s good news; the shoulder joint responds very well to manual therapy. 

At Ciarán Foy Personal Training we combine Neuromuscular and Active Release Techniques to help breakdown adhesions in soft tissues, and restore function to the impacted joint. 


For more information on our physical therapy services, visit 

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