T Nation

Preventing Shoulder Pain

Bill DeSimone talks about overhead presses and overstretches on bench presses being hard on shoulders, and contributing to shoulder pain.

I have found supinated grip pulldowns and full-range Nautilus pullovers hard on shoulders.

Looks like any overhead loaded motion can contribute to shoulder impingement problems.

I do my Nautilus Pullovers until my arms reach shoulder height. I do dumbbell rows instead of pulldowns. I do no chest presses currently.

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Bill DeSimone understands shoulders and what works. I trust what he says.

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Good call out. I hadn’t looked at DeSimone’s stuff for awhile. Via google, I found a nice write up of his thoughts on the pullover macine.

I had been using a cybex version of the pullover, pre-covid. I liked the exercise, but I always found the stretched overhead position to be uncomfortable. I am glad now that I didn’t reach too far back in an effort to expand my range of motion. Seems like I could have cut back the range of motion even more, for increased safety.

I suspect that shoulder structure varies quite a bit from person to person, such that tolerance for specific exercises varies quite a bit. Bench pressing has always been risky for me. Something like a behind the neck pull down or press would shred my shoulders immediately. On the other hand, I have no problem with dumbell overhead presses, if done elbows forward with a slight incline, or Arnold style. I can even manage barbell overhead presses, if done as Rippetoe prescribes.

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Thanks for the good words, gentlemen.

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Hated to finally admit it and give in but the machine pullover seems to be what would aggravate my shoulders. Always thought it was some shoulder or chest movement but when I was forced to lay off of pullovers for awhile while the machine was repaired my shoulders felt fine. Started doing them again after the machine was fixed and the achy shoulders were back.

I now substitute a stiff arm pull down for pullovers. The machine I used was the Hammer ; you know , the one they forgot go put a foot pedal on and it went into to production anyway …

Supinated grip pull-ups would always bother my one elbow , neutral grip doesn’t bother it at all .

Another funny thing ; never had any knee pain from squats, Sissy squats, Hacks or leg extension.

I tried the glute kick back machine , two different ones and it bothers my right knee . Feels great while in the workout but day or two later , not so good .

I’ve found as I get older to stay safe don’t go to full extension or contraction any more on most exercises , especially the extension part.

I’ve a shoulder inpingement, I cant bench or chest press (which is fine), but I can overhead press pain free with a parallel grip. Strangely the machine pullover doesn’t cause me any issues but pulldowns now do cause pain.

@ average_al

Thanks for the information on DeSimone’s take on the pullover.

I came to that same conclusion on the pullover and supinated pulldowns. They can be, and are for myself, shoulder wreckers.

Also weird that I can not do presses for chest or shoulder with a ‘free’ barbell or dumbbells … hurts my right shoulder. But I’m fine using a Smith machine for inclines or Hammer shoulder or chest machines. My shoulders feel best using a calf machine for overhead presses … and can work them very hard - especially with break downs sets - with no problems at all .

This works very well with Performance Pins … greatest invention in training since the Trap Bar ! Anyone else here use them ?

Interesting take of Desimones on the pullover and he’s usually right . I’ve always loved mine and I usually go to the most stretched position. I guess when I was younger and more resilient I could get way with murder? Now that I’m much older I’ve got to train smarter as injuries take forever to heal if ever. I also use the Nautilus BNTA and more than the pullover it puts the shoulders in an unnatural position lots of possible strain on the shoulders. I also use a seated row which seems to put little strain on the shoulders. I’m wondering if I should abandone my pullover to protect my shoulders ? That would be like leaving a family member! Ha ha !


I’d say just use the pullover in the middle range of movement. You’ll still work your lats without excessive stretching of the shoulder girdle.

What about the contracted part of the rep? I’m not seeing how that part could hurt the shoulders but maybe I’m missing something? It feels good in the contracted position and it seems it works the abs and triceps to some extent but maybe that’s a good reason not to contract to hard in that position?

I seem to recall Bill being fine with pulldowns…so long as the positioning is fine; parallel hand grip (palms facing each other) being safest, following by palms-up underhand, shoulder width; if doing overhand pulldowns, be sure to use angled bar position where the hands are at.

However, on all exercises, it’s best to use the middle 80-85% range of motion as a general rule. Avoid the ‘extremes’ at both ends of the movement.

Actually, on supinated hand pulldowns the shoulders start to bind once the arms pass parallel and above, the shoulder ligaments start to bind.
This is easily seen by raising your arms straight in front, and at the parallel position rotate hand to pronated position and the shoulder binding decreases all the way to an overhead position.

A thinking exerciser hooks a single revolving stirrup handle to a lat machine. Pulldown with both hands, resist the negative with one hand.
Rotate the hand to a pronated position while in parallel to overhead position.

I have inpingement(pinched nerve) in my shoulder, neck and trap area…was told not to do shrugs…what I have learned to do was chin tucks, this helps open up the impingement area…therefore, I am able to do nautilus pulloverss and nautilus shoulder presses…but I don’t even try to do the shrug anymore


The contracted position of the pullover is probably okay for you. Just be careful and don’t overdo it.