I’d like to share this post with all those that can relate to experiencing pain when performing some form of pushing exercise?
Exercises such as push-ups, supine bench pressing, or dumbbell chest presses, along pressing overhead with either a bar or dumbbells all qualify as a potential mechanism of irritation or injury itself.

Maybe one day your story started like this;  in the gym you started your push-ups, or dumbbell shoulder presses and you discovered that you had to cut your set short because on rep 8 of 12, you started to experience pain in a little crook in your shoulder. Now, if this pain was the intensity of a mosquito bite, you likely would’ve shrugged it off and continued on with your set, but this wasn’t the case was it? You have pain when you perform horizontal or vertical push patterns. Essentially, push-ups, or dumbbell chest presses or overhead presses respectively.
If you can’t associate a traumatic event with this pain, then you may have an impingement of one of your rotator cuff tendons, or biceps tendon.

What’s going wrong?

Possibly your posture and scapular position which is placing your “ball and socket joint” or gleno-humeral joint in an impingement position. One of your rotator cuff tendons (commonly the supraspinatus or biceps tendon) is being compressed under one of the bones on your shoulder blade (scapula)
This position is commonly known as the Rounded-shoulder position.  The rounded shoulder position essentially compresses, or frictions the terminal end of the tendons, thus causing an impingement as you move into a push position, throwing or pressing overhead position


How to make the pain go away?

Its important to reposition your shoulder blades or scapulae in a “back and down” position to stay out of the impingement position before you attempt to push a load, such as your body weight, or an external load such as a loaded bar or dumbbells.  When you reposition the shoulder and scapula into this scapular-set position, this will alleviate the pain by opening up the very limited space where the tendons of the rotator cuff, or bicep tendon traverse under the acromion, or sub-acromial space.

Now,.at the moment you are pushing the load away from your chest or shoulders, the level of your shoulders needs to be flat, or just level. Note if one shoulders tends to “hike-up” towards that side’s ear,  we”ll say that shoulder is out of position!   You can also visualize the bottom corner of your scapulae aiming for the opposite hip as a stabilizing effort.  

You can practice performing this “scapular-shoulder set” first, with your arms at your side, then slowly out in front of you going through the range of motion of a push-up, or dumbbell press. It is recommended to practice without any loads until you feel pretty smooth in your movements, and then slowly use light loads while you go through your pushing range of motion without losing your rhythm.

For an overhead press,  simply keep your shoulder back where you can see your arm in-line with your ear in the mirror while performing an overhead press. (you shouldn’t be able to see your ear!)







Please like and share this post if you found it helpful.  Stay tuned in for more progressive exercises to illustrate the scapular set with different pushing and pulling patterns.

You can send your questions to :   jean@ancasterpersonaltraining.com

Yours in Health and Fitness

Jean LaFleur  Rkin, CAT(c), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Pn1, P.I.C.P-1 Coach, B.HK, Dip SIM




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