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Smith Machine Shoulder Press


I'm currently doing 5/3/1 and while I'd like to do simple overhead barbell press, I can't because of pain in my shoulders. I've gotten over an impingement (mostly, at least) and ever since, my ROM is severely reduced it seems for overhead presses. With BB presses, it's hard for me to start the exercise - meaning, picking the weight up off the rack and lifting it from my chest - which is why I use the Smith Machine.

Currently my range of motion is to the bottom of my chin, which equates to my upper arm being parallel to the floor and my forearm being perfectly perpendicular to the floor. So, I go from a 90 degree angle to full extension and back. If I go lower then my chin the stress makes my shoulders ache extremely bad - the the point where just doing the bar is a bit of a struggle.

Should I just soldier on, and start with the bar and full range of motion or should I accept my limitation?

Another point - I've found that when I do overhead dumbbell press (my accessory exercise - I changed it for full range of motion) I have full range of motion.



When I do shoulder presses I bring it down just to my chin as well, I've never been able to comfortably do it any lower. Don't cause yourself pain because you think you need a greater ROM, that is stupid. Do the exercise to the best of your ability and get the most out of it.

Now with that said, I would address your shoulder problem. I personally do a shoulder warm-up every day before I work my upperbody, doesn't matter what muscle group I ALWAYS do this as I started getting shoulder problems from heavy DB pressing. This is somewhat like what I currently do, and I have noticed a tremendous difference in my shoulder health:


I've been trying other warmups but this looks like just what I need to keep my shoulders healthy.


I was once talking to this sports doctor about shoulder injuries. He was telling me about this study done with baseball pitchers rehabilitating their shoulder from rotator cuff injuries. They used two groups doing the same exercises for the same amount of volume (same sets & reps). One group used 1lb, then progressed to 2lbs & 3lbs. The other group used 10lbs, then progressed to 20lbs & 30lbs. The study found that the group using the less weight recovering faster and became stronger.

What I'm getting at, if you are recovering from an injury, drop the weight. The challenge to doing this is resisting the urge to increase weight because of 1) ego, and 2) the muscles around the injury can handle much more. I've tried this during a shoulder injury (rotator cuff) and am currently doing this for a lower back injury. I found that it's worked really well and I haven't reinjuried it since.

I'm not very familiar with your type of injury, but I would say drop the weight and use full range of motion. When the injuried muscles get stronger, then you can slowly increase the weight. But if doing that still hurts, don't put yourself through the pain. Just do what you are capable of.


I agree with the "less weight during rehab" part of this post, but don't lower the weight and work through the painful range. Address the issue, and so called "painful range" wont be painful anymore.

If I had a gun, and shooting myself with large bullets was INCREDIBLY painful, but I found if I used much smaller bullets, the pain wouldn't be as bad, and would subside quickly, would I use smaller bullets?

Nope, I'd stop using the gun.

Do the rehab work and the range will come.


google "how to cure shoulder problems (trust me this will do it 90% of the time)". its a thread on a website of which shall not be named.


Make DB presses your primary movement. Some people's shoulders just aren't built for barbell press.

Let me also ask, though, what your rowing numbers are compared to pressing (list your numbers for bench, OHP, Bent Rows and pullups/pulldowns). If your shoulders are out of whack because of muscular imbalance, it can lead to exactly what you're talking about.


Oh for sure. I'm not saying to work through the pain. But if he starts pressing 20 lbs, it might not be painful anymore and still give the injuried muscles a little work to get stronger.
If it still hurts, then maybe it's just not for you.


My rowing numbers are not very good compared to my pressing movements. I've been working on that (as well as doing some facepulls/rear delt work).

Currently, i would guess my max row is something like 205 (with 'English') and my max bench is 275. I'm not entirely sure how this imbalance occurred though since I haven't been really emphasizing my chest (whereas I've been doing about twice as much volume for my back for the past year).

I've worked through my impingement and I'm trying to work through my imbalance.

I do a lot of warmups (similar to the video). I think I'll lower the weight on the BB press and make the DB press my primary as you suggest. I'm not entirely sure how to do that with 5/3/1 though (maybe I'll just change up the shoulder day entirely).


So the consensus is to at least try to work on the range of motion, correct? What I'm getting from everyone is that it could be my physiology OR it could be because I'm still working through my injury.

I suppose if I'm still working through my injury and I lower the weight and do full range of motion, that after a few months if it's not any better, then I should assume my body is just not built for BB shoulder press, correct?


Did you have problems BB pressing before? Or is it something that has happened after the impingement? How is your posture? How far are your hands apart on the bar when you press? I never recommend lowering weight and working through range.. there is obviously something going on in your shoulder that doesn't want you pressing.

You can try starting out with lower weights if that's what you want, but since you wont be directly addressing the problem, then I don't think it will get any better once you ramp the weights back up.


Twice as much volume in one day, or twice a week? Twice a week is the way to go because if you double your volume all in one day, it could hold back your gains in that area.


Here's the thing - when I was 18-20 I used to workout and I don't recall having any sort of problems with any lift. I don't even know if I ever did BB press back then.

Fast forwards 12 years, I'm 32 and I've been working out for over a year. About (roughly) 8 months ago I joined a gym with barbells (before I was at work, with DBs and machines). I've really just started doing BB overhead press.

So I'm not entirely sure if it's related to the impingement or not. As to my hands/posture:

I arch my back and my hands are wider then shoulder width. When I bring the weight down to my chin, my upper arm and forearm form a 90 degree angle. I think I'll try to get a video together, which I've been meaning to do for my deadlift as well (to see if it's improved).

You might be right. I don't know - I suspect if I get a vid up that would help everyone with the diagnosis.

Twice as much a week, I'd say.


What angle should I try to get the SM Shoulder press from?


One from the back and one from the side would suffice.


Way to be vague, shithead. Were you doing two back days a week or just one??


Actually I wasn't intentionally being vague, I just miswrote. I work back two days a week. So it should have said 'twice a week'. I was also thinking that I do twice as much (in terms of exercises) so my answer morphed into vagueness.


Screw it, here's what I've been doing (this does not include warmups, which I do rotary cuff stuff for):

Day 1
SM Shoulder Press
SM Bench Chin up
DB Rear Lateral raise
DB Front Raise (I wouldn't do these except my shoulder press is so shitty at the moment)
Face Pulls (Every other week I do these instead of Rear Lat Raise)

Day 2
Single Leg Press
Standing SM Calf Raise

Day 3
BB Bench Press
Smith Machine Incline
Lying Tricep Extensions

Day 4
Stiff Leg Deadlift
BB Row
Assisted pullups (Either negatives or, more often, on the machine)
Hammer Curl


By the way, I'd gladly take any critique or suggestions for my workout. Some qualifications:

The first exercise on each day is in the 5/3/1 format
I do single leg press because the machine I do it on doesn't actually go up very high in weight
I do SM calf raises because of balance issues.

My goal is primarily strength at this point (I'm also looking to 'balance' my body, hence face pulls and rear delt work).