Why is shoulder press so hard?
Without specific examination in the movement of the individual person, it is almost impossible to diagnose why someone may be feeling pain in their back when shoulder pressing. Despite this, there are a few common culprits. The first one being overarching the lower back. When we over arch our back when Shoulder Pressing it puts a huge amount of pressure onto that spine in an unstable position. This could be down to having a weak core or the weight is simply too heavy. Strengthening the core through various core movements such as planks, lying leg raisers, hanging leg raisers etc will help improve this.
How to shoulder press
When we shoulder press the line of movement from what ever we are lifting should always end up directly over our head with our spine straight/ neutral. A correct brace is a lifting cue often overlooked or performed wrong. When bracing currently you can create a huge amount of intro-abdominal pressure. This pressure although sounds bad and terrifying is actually what provides stability to our spine when lifting. It is safer for your spine and it also helps you to lift heavier.
How to brace for performing a shoulder press
So how do we brace? A teaching technique I like to use is by imagining I have a standard trouser belt around my waist which doesn’t quite fit, about 1-2cm too wide. Before I lift an object I take a deep breath in and with that breath, try to push my stomach out into the belt (filling the belt). Hold this brace until the movement is completed, in this case the weight is now directly over your head.
What if I’m still experiencing pain after good bracing and a strong core?
So, if you have a strong core and you are good at bracing but still get lower back pain when shoulder pressing, I think it’s time to look at your shoulder mobility. Mobility is essentially how well we can move through our joints. If we have poor/ limited shoulder mobility, chances are you will over arch your lower back to complete a lift.
How to see if you have good shoulder mobility
Follow this test in the picture bellow to see if you have good mobility.
What we are looking for in this test is to see how far back you can bring your arms past your head without arching your back or having your chest rise to the ceiling. Good mobility would look like the one on the far-right hand-side.
If you prove to have insufficient movement in the shoulder, I would first try foam rolling and stretching the Lat and chest muscles and then retry the test. Strengthening all your rotator cuff muscles through a series of internal and external shoulder movements will also help stabilise that shoulder joint when shoulder pressing.