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Why Upper Body Pressing STILL Hurts Your Shoulders

shoulder exercises

Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator of DVRT Restoration, Level 1 & 2 Certifications,  DVRT Rx Courses For Shoulders, Pelvic Control, & Shoulders)

sandbag workouts

We have written A LOT of blog posts about how to avoid having upper body pressing being an issue with your shoulders. Yet, I see on social media ALL the time, people still using outdated and just flat out ineffective strategies to solve these issues. I get it, people think “my shoulder bother me, let me train my shoulders”, but that is’t what is happening in most cases. What do you keep getting told but isn’t really true?

Posture Impacts Shoulder Pain

People often like to say that posture is why people have problems in areas like their shoulders. However, the research doesn’t really support that thought process. Studies like this one HERE or this one HERE show that there isn’t a strong relationship between posture and shoulder pain. HOWEVER, what these studies DO show is that the posture you have can alter your range of motion. You can experience this yourself simply by slouching over and trying to raise your shoulders then sit in a good posture and raise your shoulders, the better posture is much easier right?

That is why we promote pressing from different positions, in doing so you learn how to control optimal posture for your body. If you can put your body in a compromised posture you won’t be able to press and with the instability of the Ultimate Sandbag, you will quickly see how almost impossible it is to press from a poor posture. We could say that if our upper body pressing is being performed in postures that are not thoughtful and using the whole body, we could be setting ourselves up to have issues!

sandbag exercisessandbag workoutssandbag press

The neutral grip of our upper body pressing exercises allow for a safer shoulder position and easier to engage important muscles of the lats/core. You can see how we press the different sizes of Ultimate Sandbags differently, but also how we can change our stance in small ways like brining our feet together (military) or split our feet to create more instability, but also better use of our muscles (in the sprinter stance on far right). 

sandbag exercisessandbag upper body workout

We can use more advanced positions like tall kneeling and half kneeling to teach how to use the whole body from the ground up and the importance of the core in correcting good posture for upper body pressing. 

Your Thoracic Spine and Shoulders Are “Tight”

This is another one that is true, but NOT for the reasons people think! Yes, if your thoracic spine is “locked up” it won’t allow your shoulders to move optimally and no matter how much you stretch your shoulders, it won’t help your shoulder mobility if your thoracic spine isn’t working.

healthy knees

This leads most people to attack their thoracic mobility hard, but doesn’t usually lead to better shoulder or thoracic movement. Why not? A very interesting study HERE showed “When gender was controlled, only lumbar lordosis was related to the presence of prolonged neck/shoulder pain.” This tells us that core control plays a big part of what happens in the upper body and neck. It should make sense as we are meant to be upright beings therefore, our upper body/neck sits upon our core, pelvis, and lower body. These areas of the body would therefore cause compensation if we lacked stability and control in these areas. So, what can we do instead?

You Still Try To Press With Your Shoulders

If you notice, we never call overhead or vertical pressing “shoulder pressing”. That infers that you are using your shoulders to press the weight. However, that isn’t true at all, upper body pressing starts at your feet, goes through your core, and the upper body pressing gains strength, mobility, and stability through the actions that happen below the upper body. This is a foreign concept to many which is why we keep sharing videos like the one below to demonstrate how connected our body actually is in movement.


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Below are some key ways we teach upper body pressing with the full body that will give you greater strength and less problems with your shoulders. That is the point of our posts, to hopefully educate people on how their bodies function so that you can see the more obvious ways to create solutions to their fitness goals.

Don’t miss our upcoming 6-week online Healthy & Strong Shoulder Masterclass. Physical therapist, Jessica Bento and strength coach, Josh Henkin, are going to dive into every aspect of shoulder health and performance and show you how to improve all aspects of shoulder function. Our special early bird won’t last long so sign-up HERE now and change how you train!