Fix Shoulder Pain with the Overhead Press

Shoulder Pain with the Overhead Press is one of the most common issues athletes face in the weight room. This article will discuss the most common causes of shoulder pain with overhead presses and suggest getting back to pain-free lifting.

Causes of Shoulder Pain with Overhead Press

Training Volume

With any injury, looking back at your recent training changes is the first place to start when evaluating why the shoulder injury occurred. Injuries frequently follow a rapid increase in training volume where tissues are asked to do more overall work than they were prepared for.

This usually happens when athletes decide to focus on one area of their body and add in extra workouts. For example, an athlete wanting to improve their overhead strength goes from overhead pressing once a week to three times. After a few weeks, the shoulder can’t recover from this big jump up in volume, and it becomes painful.

If you’ve made any training volume errors, deload the volume and build it back up at a slower pace.

Rotator Cuff Weakness

The second reason we see athletes get shoulder pain with overhead pressing is when their rotator cuff is not strong enough. The rotator cuff’s job is to stabilize the shoulder joint, and if those muscles aren’t strong enough, pain often follows.

Program Recommendation: Bulletproof Shoulders is our rotator cuff strength program for barbell athletes.


Mobility Contributions to Shoulder Pain with Overhead Pressing

Athletes with stiff shoulders and upper backs often complain of shoulder pain with overhead lifts. The three tests below will help you identify whether mobility might be contributing to your shoulder pain.

Program Recommendation: Overhead Mobility Overhaul and Thoracic Mobility Overhaul programs will help improve your mobility and performance in the gym

Training Modifications for Achy Shoulders

Now that you have some ideas on what factors might have contributed to your shoulder pain, you can start working to calm things down. But we don’t want to stop lifting for several weeks as we rehab the pain. This will result in us losing strength and the fitness we’ve worked so hard to build.

When athletes have shoulder pain with overhead pressing, I often go to two exercise variations to help them continue training without further aggravating their symptoms.

The first modification is to perform more dumbbell presses instead of barbells. For many athletes, the ability to adjust arm angle with the DB overhead press means they can find a way to press without shoulder pain.

For more irritable shoulders, we’ll often modify overhead pressing to have more landmine press’. The landmine press reduces the total range of motion of the lift, making it great for athletes with pain at the top of overhead pressing.


Get Back At It

Hope these tips speed up your recovery process. If you need guided rehab from therapists who understand the needs of serious lifters, find an Onward Physical Therapy location near you!