Pressing movements such as the barbell bench press and overhead press are staples of any gym-goers routine, with the bench even having an international day recognising it every week. Unfortunately, due to how often they are undertaken and often with non-optimal technique, they can be a common source of shoulder pain. Read on below to find about a few tips to train around your pain whilst you address the underlying cause.
Train with a restricted range of motion
In the clinic we commonly see people complaining of pain during the bottom range of motion in the bench and overhead press. Whilst dealing with the underlying causes of the pain, whether it be strength or soft tissue restrictions, it is a good idea to keep training in a restricted range of motion. For bench press, this can include using a variation such as a floor or board press. These two movements restrict you from going into the joint ranges which are typically painful, and allows you to keep some training load on the shoulder joint. For overhead press, this can be achieved by a pin press or a landmine press. Set the safety pins up in a squat rack so the bar rests at a height that stops short of the range of motion you get pain for a pin press.
Change your grip
Altering your grip can be a really simple way to continue to train pain free. Typically when we bench or overhead press we use a grip where our palms face away from us. If this grip position is giving you pain, try
changing and pressing with a neutral grip. A neural grip is when our palms face inwards at each other. This is typically a much friendlier position for your shoulder if it is a bit grumpy. It also drives a bit more of a tucked arm position instead of flared out, which can help unload the shoulder. This grip change is easy to change with dumbbells but can be a bit harder with a barbell. A possible change is to use a trap bar for both bench and overhead press (if your gym has one).
Pre-Activation/ Warm Up
If you read our previous blog on tips for keeping your shoulders healthy, you would have seen that we recommend warming your shoulders up properly before you lift. Before pressing, try some activation work of your rotator cuff and shoulder blade stabilisers. Having a strong, active base to press from can help keep your shoulder in a good position and stop certain structures getting overloaded and getting sore.
Try this simple
Pre activation circuit next time before you press:
1. Band pull-apart 3 x 15
2. Band shoulder external rotation 3 x 15