Major shoulder discomfort resulting from overhead pressing movements can be easily resolved with an attention to proper mechanics and self soft tissue massage.  The first step is to identify and fix poor mechanics.

Let’s take a look at a couple of pictures demonstrating less effective setup positions and movement patterns .  Notice the narrow grip on the barbell and how the elbows subsequently flare out in the first picture.

photo 4

With the elbows flared out, the shoulder rotates internally placing the shoulder into a much less secure and safe position.  The strain to the ligaments of the ball and socket joint of the shoulder becomes excessive and increases the chance for injury.

photo 5


The finish position.  While it may not look too bad, the journey the barbell had taken was less effective at producing power and protecting all of the soft tissue of the shoulder.

photo 2


Let’s take a look at a better way of setting up.  Notice below the width of Krista’s grip:  much wider out on the barbell.  She is then cued to keep her elbows pointing in, with the elbows and wrists in near vertical alignment.  This externally rotates the shoulder, taking up the slack in the joint, thereby protecting it and providing a much more secure platform from which Krista can press overhead.

photo 1


As the barbell moves overhead, note how the elbows and wrists are still somewhat vertically aligned.  The shoulders maintain their external rotation and security.


photo 2


A more secure and effective finish position:  (Notice that this finish position causes Krista to smile!  Sloppy mechanics make the athlete sad…)

photo 3


After fixing your setup and movement patterns and the shoulder still has some lingering pain when pressing overhead, the culprit might be the subscapularis, the muscle largely responsible for internal rotation of the shoulder.  Now, how can you access it and get some massage magic to it?

rotator cuffs


First, raise the problematic arm to so that it is parallel with the floor.

photo 1


Next, protract your shoulder by simply sticking your arm out further away from your body.

photo 2After protracting the shoulder and keeping the arm extended, tilt the elbow to the side so that it is facing away from your body.

photo 3

By doing this, the subscapularis will be easier to find.  It is a thin strip of stiff feeling tendon (you’ll be going after the insertion point of the muscle into the humerous).  You can then get a friend to reach into your armpit and massage it or massage it yourself.

photo 4photo 5

photo 2 Go after it for about a minute or two and then retest your range of motion.  Hopefully you should have some if not all of your discomfort resolved after this.

Good luck!  Now get back lifting!