If there’s one thing that too many of those training in the sport of bodybuilding know, it’s that shoulder pain happens all too easily. One day you’re shoulder pressing just fine and the next you’re struck with an injury.
If you get severe, sharp pain any time you have a weight above your head, worry may set in that this means the end for your physique. How can you possibly grow if you can’t perform this basic, but highly effective compound movement?
It might be time to question whether you really need to be pressing in order to see results. Here are a few things to consider.
Think About The Primary Cause Of Muscular Growth
First, if your primary goal is to develop muscle size, stop and think for a moment what really causes muscle size growth to occur. It’s a combination of total time under tension along with the amount of weight being lifted.
While pressing exercises do typically allow you to lift more weight since you have more total muscle power behind you for each rep you do, it’s important to remember the fact that they aren’t the only exercise you can put your muscles under tension with.
Lateral raises, front raises, rear delt fly’s, and upright rows will all place your shoulder muscles under strain. If you apply enough total volume with these movements, you can still see muscle growth taking place.
While it may not be as fast as it would if you had pressing movements in the picture, it does mean all hope is not lost.
If it’s an injury that keeps you from shoulder pressing, it may just be a matter of pressing smarter, not harder. Rather than going into the gym and shoulder pressing each and every workout you do, consider pressing just once every two weeks or so. This way, your joints, ligaments and tendons are getting plenty of recovery time between sets, reducing the chances pain sets in.
And, by pressing every once in a while, you’ll also minimize any strength losses that may otherwise start to occur. Your body will hold onto strength relatively well as long as you are still hitting the muscles in other manners regularly and then doing one or two heavy sets every couple of weeks.
Keeping your strength up like this, if you can, might then help you excel more on those isolation movements as well.
Consider Chest Pressing
If it’s just shoulder pressing that’s causing you pain, you might consider instead chest pressing. If you can do this exercise without problem, it’ll still be putting tension on your shoulder muscles – often enough to get them to respond and improve.
Or, find the happy medium and try incline chest press. This puts even more stress on the shoulders, while still getting the chest involved. For some, it’s only direct overhead pressing that causes the pain, so this is a great work-around solution to help you get past it.
Use Shock Techniques With Your Other Movements
Finally, consider using a few shock techniques with those other exercises you are including. For instance, with lateral raises, you might do a set of 5, then hold one side constant at the top position while doing another set of 5 with the free arm. Then hold that working arm constant in the top position, do a set of 5 to the other side and then finish up with 5 more reps. Your shoulders will be burning at the end and you’ll be making those lateral delts pop.
Alternatively, drop sets also work incredibly well and are a great technique to use when performing upright rows.
If you keep challenging your muscles with new techniques, more volume, less rest, and anything else you can do to really make your muscles scream with fatigue, you should still be able to see good progress with your shoulder workouts despite not including those overhead lifts each and every gym session.