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Shoulder Pain During Military Press


Whenever I do military press my right shoulder hurts. It hurts right when I lock out the movement at the top. It feels like a deep sharp pain in the top middle part of the shoulder. I think it's a "bone" issue rather than tissue/muscle. The weird thing is that it only hurts when I use the barbell. Dumbbells are no problem. It seems like the barbell is forcing a movement that my shoulder doesn't like.

I've sometimes felt the same pain when doing pull ups without warming up enough. I have recently started lifting weights after a 6 month break so this is not an issue of over training.

Oh and one more thing. I have very "loose" scapulas. If I sit I can push my elbows against my quads to make my scapulas stick out so it looks like I have wings. Maybe this has something to do with it?

This sucks balls cause I really wanna use the barbell instead of dumbbells. I just started on JW's 5/3/1.

Any suggestions on how to fix this?


first off don't do barbell presses any more. use the dumbbells. secondly look how you can strengthen your whole shoulder complex. It might come down to either use dumbbells or ruin your shoulders so bad that you need surgery to repair them. Use your head, i know it sucks but as long as you can stay in the game that's what counts.


Hi Mattis,

Diagnosis by internet is pretty unreliable. You really should consider seeing a sports doctor or a physiotherapist. But if you want my 2c worth...I would start by saying its most unlikely to be a serious bone issue. Sure you could have winged scapulas, you could have a hooked acromium process, but I'd be betting more that you have a strength imbalance in the shoulders that is just pulling the joint out of skew as you move it.

Stop doing Military Press for the moment and look at exercises to strengthen your upper traps and rhomboids. Read the Shoulder savers article. But I would suggest heps of Pull Ups and Face Pulls.


Hi and thanks for responding both of you.

I am staying away from military press for now. I still do dumbbell overhead press but will of course stop if the pain returns.

Yeah I don't think this is a serious bone issue either. It's probably just a matter of weak/unbalanced muscles in the shoulder/traps area as you said. This would explain the loose scapulas as well. I will check out the shoulder savers article, thanks for the tip.


With the shoulder it's simple. If it hurts don't do it. Find alternatives and then try and return back to the barbell military press...if it hurts again. Stop doing it for another month, and then try it again. HAMMER the upper back musculature with LOTS of horizontal rowing variations and external rotation work on the shoulder. Try the TYI dumbbell series lying face down on an incline bench and hit the cable face pulls with external rotation. Also, DeFranco swears by the 100 band pull aparts a day and this would also be good for you as well. Good Luck!


do you rotate your arm when you use dumbbells whereas the barbell prevents your doing this?
with chinups / pullups do you prefer a grip where your palms are facing in rather than towards or away from you?

i've read something or other about how some people have trouble with the grip a barbell (or regular pullup / chinup bar) forces them into. they do better with their palms facing in at the top of the movement. blah blah something about the shape of the shoulder joint or something that i don't remember.

could something like this be going on??

might be something to look into anyways.


Good point about doing more rows. There aren't any rowing machine at my crappy college gym, so the only rowing I currently do are croc rows. Will definitely add t-bar rows and facepulls to my workouts.

No I don't rotate my arm with the dumbbells. What I found is that pressing the weight with my arms straight overhead hurts because of limited ROM. However, when I press a little more up and to the sides (not as vertical) there is no pain.

Chin ups/pull ups aren't really a problem for my shoulder. I've only felt it a couple times when I wasn't warmed up properly. However I see where your getting at and this is the case for me; A pronated or neutral grip is easier on my shoulder.