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Shoulder Pain on Military Presses

Hello All,

Ok. When I do seated Military Presses, the same thing has happened twice. Basically, it starts out fine, but then there is a sudden decrease in strength, but no pain. A few hours later, I will feel a slight twinge in my shoulder when I raise my arm. By evening time, the pain is almost unbearable when I raise my arm to about shoulder level. However, it is fine once I get it past a certain threshold. The pain then goes away in a couple of weeks. That's when I tried doing them again with the same result.

I think it may be related to how I get the bar off and on the bench.

Any suggestions? Any details that would help?

JF

[quote]Jesus_Freak wrote:
Hello All,

Ok. When I do seated Military Presses, the same thing has happened twice. Basically, it starts out fine, but then there is a sudden decrease in strength, but no pain. A few hours later, I will feel a slight twinge in my shoulder when I raise my arm. By evening time, the pain is almost unbearable when I raise my arm to about shoulder level. However, it is fine once I get it past a certain threshold. The pain then goes away in a couple of weeks. That's when I tried doing them again with the same result.

I think it may be related to how I get the bar off and on the bench.

Any suggestions? Any details that would help?

JF[/quote]

Well, how do you get the bar off of the bench? Military press should be a strict up-down movement.

[quote]Jesus_Freak wrote:
Hello All,

Ok. When I do seated Military Presses, the same thing has happened twice. Basically, it starts out fine, but then there is a sudden decrease in strength, but no pain. A few hours later, I will feel a slight twinge in my shoulder when I raise my arm. By evening time, the pain is almost unbearable when I raise my arm to about shoulder level. However, it is fine once I get it past a certain threshold. The pain then goes away in a couple of weeks. That's when I tried doing them again with the same result.

[/quote]
These symptoms are pretty classic: you’re suffering from what’s called impingement. To raise your arm, you use muscles located in your back. The tendons that connect the muscles in your upper back (especially the supraspinatus) to your upper arm run through a little passage in the top of your shoulder that goes under a bony prominence called the acromion. This is the bony pip that sticks out at the top of the shoulder. If you find your collar bone and trace along it and then continue up to the top of the shoulder, you will feel it there even if you can’t see it stick out on you.

What’s happening to you is that in mid lift you are carrying the shoulder too far forward (probably) and this little passage is clamping down on the tendon. So in the first place you lose power because it’s like somebody clamped a brake on that tendon, and in the second place the tendon is inured by the pressure and inflames. You get tendonitis, and even without a weight in your hand it hurts to elevate the arm. Eventually the inflammation subsides and the pain goes away … until the next time. I hope you’re with me so far. Getting out an anatomy text wouldn’t hurt.

Some people are more prone than others to this; they have a little less clearance up there. The people who are the likely to experience this are the ones that neglect to train their upper backs and the ones that don’t stretch. If this has happened to you a lot, the tendons thicken and it is even harder to get the necessary clearance. During an arthroscopy a surgeon can sculpt the underside of the acromion to give a little more room there.

You can make the passage under the acromion open up wider yourself by properly positioning your shoulders during the lift. You need to force the shoulders back and down before starting the lifting motion. The chances are good that the muscles in your back are too weak to do a really good job at this, and a PT will prescribe the correct exercises to fix this. It’s not that they’re that complicated to do, but you really want to be taught by somebody who can see whether or not you’re doing them correctly, because it’s not just a matter of making a rowing mation, you have to make the correct internal motions to guide the mechanisms of the shoulder into the correct groove.

Basically, you get on your stomach on a bench that is nearly horizontal, let your arms hang straight down. One move you keep the elbows extended, the arms close to the body, and your hands wind up near your butt, the other move you keep the elbow bent and the upper arm abducted out - more like classical rowing - and the hand winds up under the shoulder. But this is key: you do these moves by moving your shoulder blades mainly.

You should really invest in a visit to a physical therapist, both to get a more specific diagnosis and to get hands on training in therapy exercises.

[quote]endgamer711 wrote:
Getting out an anatomy text wouldn’t hurt.
[/quote]

It would if you have to reach high to get it.

Seriously though, great post.

If possible, have you thought of doing DB shoulder presses instead ?

At my YMCA they took out the good old BB stands and replaced them with some fancy nancyboy crap weight stands that would cause major impingement and shoulder strains if you atempted to unrack any decent weight yourself… and that’s for healthy storng lifters, btw LOL…

Just tweak your movements a bit, change your lifting/racking/unracking method to suit your comfort level and keep lifting.

As well, like the other posts said get yourself checked out by a therapist who also lifts and also pay attention to your little muscle groups, rear delts, rotator cuffs exercises, etc.

Good luck.

If it hurts, don’t do it.

It’s best to find other exercises that don’t hurt. Due to shoulder issues, I do very little direct shoulder work. I get the majority of my shoulder work from benches, rows, etc. However, depending on how my shoulder is feeling, I will also include standing overhead shoulder presses. Once it hurts, it’s time to back off, ice, seek treatment and see if I can do something else.

Could be rotator cuff injury… try ART treatment (Active Release Technique).

MicroSlash - “Leery of military presses since blowing out BOTH rotator cuffs in 1990…”

I too have shoulder issues, I had a major surgery in '96, but I still have good shoulder development. I still do barbell presses, but with much lighter weight. I pre-exhaust my delts with dumbbell raises and upright rows. Then you can do your presses with lighter weight and still get the thickness building benefits from them, hopefully without pain. I gotta agree with Snoop. Pain is your body telling you something is wrong. If it hurts, try something else.

[quote]MicroSlash wrote:
MicroSlash - “Leery of military presses since blowing out BOTH rotator cuffs in 1990…”[/quote]

This is all too familiar… you aren’t what we veterans used to know as “monkeyboy eric” are you? :wink:

[quote]endgamer711 wrote:

You should really invest in a visit to a physical therapist, both to get a more specific diagnosis and to get hands on training in therapy exercises.
[/quote]

Thanks for that awesome post! That took a lot of time on your part and I greatly appreciate it. That was lots of great advice because it describes exactly what is happening to me. I remember when it first happened how confused I was. It was exactly as you described. Like the brakes were put on. My muscles did not feel taxed, bt I could only lift 70% of what I had the time before.

I know a physical therapist who goes to my church. I spoke to her last time this happened and she was unsure of what it could be. Armed with this information sher should be able to help me a lot more.

Thanks again!

JF

[quote]jaybvee wrote:

As well, like the other posts said get yourself checked out by a therapist who also lifts and also pay attention to your little muscle groups, rear delts, rotator cuffs exercises, etc.

Good luck.[/quote]

I know the lifts for my rotator cuffs, but what about the rear delts? Also, what would be included in the “etc.” of the statement above.

Also, I need to get a better dumbell set to do dumbell presses. Unfortunately, the weights fall off the pair I have right now. The clamps don’t hold them on very well…

Thanks!

JF

[quote]Nate Dogg wrote:
If it hurts, don’t do it.

It’s best to find other exercises that don’t hurt. Due to shoulder issues, I do very little direct shoulder work. I get the majority of my shoulder work from benches, rows, etc. However, depending on how my shoulder is feeling, I will also include standing overhead shoulder presses. Once it hurts, it’s time to back off, ice, seek treatment and see if I can do something else.[/quote]

Nate,
Thanks. I did back off for two weeks, and then it felt so much better I thought it would be a great time to injure it again :).

But really, thanks. If I have a flaw, it is that I like to push hard, and sometimes that means that I will push through the pain. Not a good thing in lifting weights.

I think the hardest thing with this, though, was that it did not hurt at the time of the injury. My strength seemed to vanish for no reason. Now I know why thanks to the indepth post above.

JF

[quote]40&Big wrote:
I too have shoulder issues, I had a major surgery in '96, but I still have good shoulder development. I still do barbell presses, but with much lighter weight. I pre-exhaust my delts with dumbbell raises and upright rows. Then you can do your presses with lighter weight and still get the thickness building benefits from them, hopefully without pain. I gotta agree with Snoop. Pain is your body telling you something is wrong. If it hurts, try something else.[/quote]

I had switched to upright rows and raises for the past couple of weeks and my shoulders felt much better. I think I will work on some of the therapy exercises, raises, rows, and then when I am feeling 100% test the water with some light weights, as you say, or by a new dumbell set and do dumbell presses instead. I was doing them until the weights started falling off my cheap set!

JF

[quote]Nate Dogg wrote:
MicroSlash wrote:
MicroSlash - “Leery of military presses since blowing out BOTH rotator cuffs in 1990…”

This is all too familiar… you aren’t what we veterans used to know as “monkeyboy eric” are you? :wink:
[/quote]

Nope…wish he’d come back, tho…

MicroSlash - “Wishing like hell MBE would return so I can stop entering my posts like this before I just have to get a new goddamn forum name…”

Jesus_freak:

Te etc. I am referring to is basically the shoulder muscles as a whole and attending to the possible muscle imbalances that could be underlying your issues.

Use the search engine feature and look up “shoulder exercises” (the foremost articles that come to mind are by Eric Cressey, Poliquin, Thibaudeau, etc.)
“Cracking the shoulder conundrum ?” I think was very good along with the whole “Exercises You’ve never tried pts 1-??” are awesome brain food for building your shoulders as well as your body.

Good luck and stay healthy.

Jay

[quote]Jesus_Freak wrote:

I had switched to upright rows and raises for the past couple of weeks and my shoulders felt much better. I think I will work on some of the therapy exercises, raises, rows, and then when I am feeling 100% test the water with some light weights, as you say, or by a new dumbell set and do dumbell presses instead. I was doing them until the weights started falling off my cheap set!
JF[/quote]

It may be that you’re only needing some coaching on form on the OH Press, or it may be that you’ve gotten out of balance developmentally.

Myself I’ve just been through an arthroscopy. The issues were a partial rotator cuff tear, tendonitis, and cartilage damage. But four months later my shoulder is starting to feel great now. I’m looking forward to having a better OH Press than ever.

To absolutely avoid tendon damage, I use the following procedure in one of these chairs that has a safety cage. I put the safety bars at about clavicle height and I rest the bar there, not on the handy overhead bar rests, which I remove so they won’t be in the way. When I’m ready to lift, I get myself braced into the chair with my back erect, and I roll the bar toward me on the safety bars until I really wonder a bit whether I’m going to clear my chin and nose as I lift. I pull my shoulders way, way back and down (“fully packed”), get the long axes of my forearms right under the bar, pull my face back a bit and lift straight up. After my forearms are above horizontal, my shoulder will start to extend upward to full extension. You need to follow the exact groove back down.

Pain is the teacher. The only pain that’s okay during a workout is lactic acid burn. Any other pain you feel in the middle of a lift means you’ve just had an injury incident and if you’re real smart you’ll quit right then and wait as long as necessary for full recovery before working anywhere near whatever got hurt. Then you study your form very carefully and try to figure out what happened and what to do different or what to get back into balance before you go back and try it again.

The best time to apply this policy is when the pain seems minor, almost negligible - about the point where you’d probably be thinking about “working through the pain”. Take a break from training instead. Your recovery will be fast and you won’t get into chronic injuries the way I did.

Pain means you have to learn to do something different. Otherwise, while the pain will certainly go away, the underlying situation doesn’t, and the pain will be back later.

[quote]endgamer711 wrote:
Jesus_Freak wrote:

I had switched to upright rows and raises for the past couple of weeks and my shoulders felt much better. I think I will work on some of the therapy exercises, raises, rows, and then when I am feeling 100% test the water with some light weights, as you say, or by a new dumbell set and do dumbell presses instead. I was doing them until the weights started falling off my cheap set!
JF

It may be that you’re only needing some coaching on form on the OH Press, or it may be that you’ve gotten out of balance developmentally.

Myself I’ve just been through an arthroscopy. The issues were a partial rotator cuff tear, tendonitis, and cartilage damage. But four months later my shoulder is starting to feel great now. I’m looking forward to having a better OH Press than ever.

To absolutely avoid tendon damage, I use the following procedure in one of these chairs that has a safety cage. I put the safety bars at about clavicle height and I rest the bar there, not on the handy overhead bar rests, which I remove so they won’t be in the way. When I’m ready to lift, I get myself braced into the chair with my back erect, and I roll the bar toward me on the safety bars until I really wonder a bit whether I’m going to clear my chin and nose as I lift. I pull my shoulders way, way back and down (“fully packed”), get the long axes of my forearms right under the bar, pull my face back a bit and lift straight up. After my forearms are above horizontal, my shoulder will start to extend upward to full extension. You need to follow the exact groove back down.

Pain is the teacher. The only pain that’s okay during a workout is lactic acid burn. Any other pain you feel in the middle of a lift means you’ve just had an injury incident and if you’re real smart you’ll quit right then and wait as long as necessary for full recovery before working anywhere near whatever got hurt. Then you study your form very carefully and try to figure out what happened and what to do different or what to get back into balance before you go back and try it again.

The best time to apply this policy is when the pain seems minor, almost negligible - about the point where you’d probably be thinking about “working through the pain”. Take a break from training instead. Your recovery will be fast and you won’t get into chronic injuries the way I did.

Pain means you have to learn to do something different. Otherwise, while the pain will certainly go away, the underlying situation doesn’t, and the pain will be back later.[/quote]

Thanks for all that.

O have been lifting for about 6 months, and in the past two months I hve found that as my weights increase, good training is becoming more important. The more weight, the more possbile damage. I ahve been lifting at home, but the local YMCA provides classes, and coaching. Would you recommend something like that, or something different? The Local Y is a pretty good one. One of the best I have seen.

Also, I went to the Chiropractor today and he took a look at the shoulder. A couple of interesting notes. First, he said the shoulder was slightly out and pushed forward, which could be causing a restriction. Also, he massaged a place below my shoulder on my back. It was a timy place, but wicked sensitive. He said it as where the tendon connected. Just wacky that something that hurt inside my shoulder also connected to my back…

JF

If you are having problems with impingements you shouldn’t do upright rows. You should also be careful to keep your elbows down when doing dumbell raises.

[quote]Jesus_Freak wrote:
Thanks for all that.

O have been lifting for about 6 months, and in the past two months I hve found that as my weights increase, good training is becoming more important. The more weight, the more possbile damage. I ahve been lifting at home, but the local YMCA provides classes, and coaching. Would you recommend something like that, or something different? The Local Y is a pretty good one. One of the best I have seen.

Also, I went to the Chiropractor today and he took a look at the shoulder. A couple of interesting notes. First, he said the shoulder was slightly out and pushed forward, which could be causing a restriction. Also, he massaged a place below my shoulder on my back. It was a timy place, but wicked sensitive. He said it as where the tendon connected. Just wacky that something that hurt inside my shoulder also connected to my back…

JF[/quote]

Since you’re relatively new to this, I think getting some coaching at the Y would be a great idea. You can learn from form manuals, but it’s hard to see yourself from the side in a mirror when lifting, and in any case it really helps to have somebody knowledgeable critique your form. When I wanted to perfect my deadlift, I hired a strength coach for an hour for just that purpose, and it was well worth it.

The chiro’s notion that you’re carrying the shoulder forward points to the need for therapy exercises. Most likely your habitual posture is underutilizing the key muscles in the back. Don’t put off going to see the PT.

It’s not at all funny that these things are connected. Here you have a muscle in your back trying to pull a tendon connected to it through a slot in your shoulder. The slot clamps down and locks the tendon in place, but you are still driving that muscle hard, so besides the tendon taking gas, some of the damage happens where the tendon attaches to the muscle.

Your notion that more weight means more possible damage is true as far as it goes, but the real issue is whether your form in the exercise is correct. if your form is correct, you’re unlikely to get injured even if your lift fails because the load is too great. Incorrect form, on the other hand, can be dangerous at almost any loading.

JF,
I had very similar symptoms about a year ago. I suspected weak rotator cuff muscles after researching and finding an article by Eric Cressey:
http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do;?id=459577

Six weeks of the exercises found in the article and I was back doing the MP. Now I regularly rotate these through my routines.
Good Luck.