Sure Up Your Shoulder Press

Jul 23, 2020 | Written by Aarvi | 0 comments

Hi guys! Aarvi here.

This blog post is on shoulder pain whilst pressing. I get a lot of people coming into the clinic and complaining of this issue so I am going to run through some DIYs tips that may assist with minimizing the pain when lifting. In most cases it is mainly noticeable during an overhead pressing movement. There is usually some kind of impingement occurring in the shoulder region.

So here are some tips you can try to help overcome this issue, generally speaking I would encourage everyone to incorporate these tips and tricks to their everyday life as it is better to be proactive than reactive

Tip number 1 – Activate

As you would know with all my other blog posts;

[Part 1 of 3] “The Activation Series”

[Part 2 of 3] “The Activation Series”

[Part 3 of 3] “The Activation Series”

is to do some activation work prior to any physical activity.

Activating your muscles before you start your workout can help you recruit more muscles and work more efficiently and get the best bang for your buck for the lift.

Research such as Parr et al,. (2017) shows great performance differences with neuromuscular activation improvements and some simple routines prior to bouts of exercise can be very effective at improving activation.

My favourite activation series for the upper body is the shoulder big 3 which I learnt from the great Andrew Lock. Definitely give this a go and start doing it 2x a day once before workout and once another time during the day.

This applies for people not only lifting but everyone who constantly is sitting in front of a desk, mums with bubs, tradies. Because we spend most of the day rolled forwards and the back muscles get neglected so this is a great way to get those muscles firing

Tip Number 2 – Technique

Technique is everything so make sure it is correct especially if you are adding load. You should earn your right to go up in weight. This will not only increase the chances of you being in the game a lot longer, it will also assist with getting stronger and better in the long run. In most cases someone who lifts heavy loads with poor technique will tend to break down and will not be able to continue to progress, as they first were able to.

Tip Number 3 – Positioning of shoulder blades

This is crucial because having the shoulder blades sitting in the correct position prior to lifting or even picking up something from the cupboard will make it easier to move and minimize the chance of injury or aggravation.

The strongest and safe for the scapula to be are retracted and depressed which means shoulder blades back and down (shoulder blades down to your back pocket). This is crucial when lifting you do not lose this position as in most cases indicates loss of tightness and latissimus dorsi (wing muscle) engagement.


Why are Lats important during pressing?

Well they insert on the front of the humerus (upper arm bone), so when the arm is out in front or top of the body they will pull the arm back to the body. So a prime mover on the descending phase of the press and having them engaged throughout the whole press by keeping shoulder blades back and down will not only assist in taking stress of the shoulder joint but also opens up the space the shoulder joint moves in so decreasing the chance of impingement

Tip number 4 – Dumbbell or Barbell

This is definitely something that you need to consider especially if you have difficulty with getting shoulder blades and down. Because a barbell will make it even more difficult and enclose the space in your shoulder joint therefore increase impingement signs. Once all the other tips listed above are down pat and have good control and understanding of your positioning then I recommend doing barbell press.

The ideal position for shoulder pressing is to press at 45 degrees instead of 90 degrees as it puts a lot more stress on the shoulder and can make it difficult to get shoulder blades back and down.

Tip Number 5 – Control tempo

This is a great tip for not only assisting with shoulder pain but also assisting with muscle growth and strength. A more slowed down tempo can assist in showing where breakdown of form is occurring so you can work/strengthen those areas but also enables you to find the “sweet spot”.

What is a sweet spot?

People that lift will know what the sweet spot is, its when the weight just moves up and down smoothly and feels comfortable

Research suggests that more muscle tension and volume is what leads to muscle breakdown, recovery, and ultimately growth. So, if you reduce the rep speed to a slow and more controlled tempo, you increase the muscle tension. The higher the muscle tension, the more growth you get. A great paper by Burd et al. (2012) supports these findings.

Well there you have it, 5 great tips to assist with your shoulder pain whilst pressing.

And as always have a good day


– Aarvi



Parr, M., Price, P. D., & Cleather, D. J. (2017). Effect of a gluteal activation warm-up on explosive exercise performance. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 3(1), e000245.

Burd, N. A., Andrews, R. J., West, D. W., Little, J. P., Cochran, A. J., Hector, A. J., Cashaback, J. G., Gibala, M. J., Potvin, J. R., Baker, S. K., & Phillips, S. M. (2012). Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. The Journal of physiology, 590(2), 351–362.

Wilk, M., Golas, A., Stastny, P., Nawrocka, M., Krzysztofik, M., & Zajac, A. (2018). Does Tempo of Resistance Exercise Impact Training Volume?. Journal of human kinetics, 62, 241–250.