T Nation

Pain at the Bottom of Barbell Overhead Press


At the bottom of the press my left shoulder hurts while doing warm-up sets. But when I reach the full weight, there is no pain anymore.

Outside of that I don’t normally feel shoulder pain except when I’m toweling my hair drying it off. The pain is pretty bad when I do that.

I also experience frequent catching and clicking.

Any idea what I can do about it? Maybe a safe way to work the lateral delts without pain? Thanks!


Are your front delts a lot more developed than your rear delts?
If you warm up your rotator cuff before pressing does it still affect it?
Has it always been sore?
Do lateral raises or other shoulder movements hurt your shoulder?
Does bench press (or variations) hurt your shoulder?
How much weight do you press, how much do you bench, how much do you row?
Does it hurt when you use dumbbells?
Has it always hurt to dry your hair or only since you started pressing?

I’m sure there many more questions but if you answer most of those, we may be a little closer to your problem.


You might find that your chest is collapsing and your shoulders are rolling forward at the bottom. Really focus on retraction your shoulder blades


What they said^

Maybe warmup up with latpull down, band pull apart/face pull? And lat spread during the execution of the press for surface area?


Other than the questions above, where is the pain located exactly?
The bottom of the press and the act of drying your hair usually put your shoulders into an externally rotated position, for what it’s worth, might be that your left shoulder can’t move properly in that portion of its range of motion.

If the pain you feel is some sort of pinching in the back of the shoulder, and it goes away after warming up, I had something similar and discovered it was the long head of the tricep not being warmed up enough when I was pressing, simply solved it by doing some more triceps warmup before any pressing.

For lateral delts, when my shoulders were cranky (crankier than now, at least) I could pretty much only do cable lateral raises. Focus on keeping your body in line, your arm stiff, use a super light weight and limit the range of motion raising the arm from the side of your tigh to about parallel to the ground or even less.

Regardless, I’d make shoulder prehab stuff part of your daily routine (or at least, part of every training session). Things like pull aparts, face pulls and shoulder dislocators are real shoulder savers if done on a regular basis.


Thanks. To answer a question, yes bench press is starting to really bother my shoulder now as well. I do and have performed face pulls for a while (my rear delt exercise) although I noticed recently that my form could be better. I’ve tried extensively warming up prior to a shoulder exercise. Moved overhead press to the very end of the workout. Lots of rubber band and tubing work warming up the rotator cuff. Doing face pulls and pull-ups prior to the exercise. Every stretch I can think of. I’ve done it all. I don’t think it’s a warm-up issue. I’ve also altered my form countless times, but the pain is just unavoidable no matter what I do. Currently I practice stronglifts recommended form for Overhead press, but I’ve done other variations. I’ve even tried seated dumbbell overhead press, which causes me even more pain. I have noticed shrugging my shoulders helps with the pain a fair amount, but even so it is there. I’ve also been doing workouts on off days where I focus on strengthening my rotator cuff. But the pain continues to get worse every workout so obviously this isn’t helping.

I’ve been trying to determine the exact location of the pain. The shoulder has few nerves so it’s really hard to pinpoint exact locations of pain, especially since when I feel pain it is brief. I think it may be multiple locations. Most commonly behind the shoulder joint, but I’ve also felt it in the front.

It is indeed very strange that 1 or 2 sets into doing the maximum weight, that the pain suddenly vanishes. But doing a ton of warming up prior to the exercise and even making it the last workout of the day has had zero beneficial impact I’ve noticed.

I’ve had this problem for about a year. Took a couple months off from the gym, but pain came back after a few weeks of slowly working my way back to my old PR. A year ago I couldn’t even lift my arm above my head without pain, so believe it or not this is not even the worst it has ever been. Lateral raises with dumbbells for me is about 10x more painful than overhead press, it’s ridiculous. Using really low weights doesn’t seem to help much either, overhead pressing 5 lb dumbbells hurts my shoulder just as much as doing it with 50 lb dumbbells. I think the problem is more related to the movement itself than it does how much weight I’m using.

Retraction of shoulder blades is not possible with overhead press because you have to raise them to press the weight above your head, and I’ve noticed doing this hurts my shoulder blades if I try to do it. But it does help with bench press, although my shoulders still hurt doing that.

My next shoulder workout I plan to see if foam rolling the shoulders, lats, traps, triceps, and biceps will help the pain. Stretching doesn’t seem to help a whole lot. In fact I’ve noticed that certain shoulder stretches seem to aggravate my shoulder (especially the one where you stretch your rear delt by pulling your arm across your body, even when performing it lightly it hurts).

All this said, I don’t normally feel pain in the shoulder outside of these exercises and towelling my hair off, and don’t feel pain lifting my arm over my head (but I did a year ago).


Foam rolling not doing anything. I think maybe I have a damaged labrum. I’m gonna seek an MRI ASAP.