Whether working in a physiotherapy clinic, or simply working out in the gym, a lot of people will give me an insight into their symptoms of shoulder pain throughout pressing movements. The fact that people get pain when performing some of their favourite movements such as their bench press and shoulder press is very….dePRESSING. If that pun hasn’t infuriated you to the point of exiting this blog congratulations - you have earnt the right to reduce your shoulder pain!
There are two common themes that I see in these patients, and when we adjust these movements, we almost always make a change to their symptoms. Now don’t get me wrong, i’m not a wizard, and to say everyone’s symptoms completely disappear from these simple changes would be a complete lie, but the fact that we can reduce the symptoms suggests that we are on the ball and that we are on our way to making a long term change. So let’s get in to it!
Pt 1 - Elbow Position
Commonly when observing patients I will see them pressing with their elbows flared out to the side. Not only does that put our shoulder in a vulnerable position, but it additionally creates excess stress in the shoulder joint that can predispose you to injury. Therefore we want to change this position to having our elbows in closer to our body to reduce this risk. Check out the cues below that I use with patients during barbell and/or dumbbell pressing to make these positional changes.
*excuse the facial expressions in the front on photos. I’m happy to be here, I swear!
Barbell Shoulder Press - Grip
Try adjust your grip to just slightly outside your shoulders. That’ll allow you to keep your shoulders in the most comfortable position to keep your elbows in close to your body.
Barbell Bench Press - Bend the Bar in Half
Keeping your elbows in while bring the bar down to your chest when bench pressing can be quite hard to teach. As you bring the bar down to your chest try bend the bar in half. That will facilitate optimal elbow positioning.
DB Shoulder Press and Bench Press - Wrists at 45 degrees (pinky finger facing in front)
As seen in the second photo, the wrists are turned in at a 45 degree angle. This makes it easier to keep your elbows closer to your side.
Making these simple adjustments to your pressing technique is not only going to allow you to lift heavier in a more stable position, but you’re probably going to feel a better ‘pump’... as the kids call it these days. So when Monday comes along again and you’re training chest or shoulders before you head on out to the beach, I want you to give these technique changes a go to see if we can get rid of that niggly shoulder pain!