Shoulders Pop When Doing Barbell Shoulder Press – Then Don’t Do it

Have you ever experienced your shoulders crackling or making some popping sound whenever you do barbell military/shoulder presses? That is usually a prelude to rotator cuff disaster. That happened to me – now here’s my story and what I did to work around it. I will also tell you my take on what’s causing it and how to remedy the problem – although there is no GENERAL way per se to resolve this problem.

I went to the Brando’s gym the other day for another session. My split that day was for arms (shoulders, then biceps, triceps). I went in and I noticed that the military press station was pre-loaded with some 35s each end. Apparently some newbie forgot to practice the “return the weights” etiquette.

Well anyways, it was convenient since I just used it as I was planning to work from that weight with high reps. So I sat down and positioned myself and proceeded with the preloaded barbells totaling just 70lbs – a very light set.

Arnold Barbell shoulder press


But then I was distracted by some popping, crackling sound from my shoulders and they were from the joints themselves – the sound and the feel was like when you pop your knuckles. I know that this isn’t good in anyway, so what did I do?

Simple, I did something else

If any exercise causes discomforts especially on the joints, then do something else. There is no such thing as exercises that are “required” for your muscles to grow. Yep, some people will have difficulty doing back squats; then do front squats or zercher squats or you can just do more deadlifts to compensate for the lack of squats. If you feel that deadlifts from the floor is not compatible with your body type; then do deadlifts from the rack.

In my case I decided to just do the workout I outlined in the killer shoulder workout: superset power cleans with any type of dumbbell shoulder presses.

I feel no pain when doing shoulder presses with dumbbells since it’s quite easier on the joints and unlike the barbell version they do not force a certain angle on your joints.

Funny thing is I feel NO pain at all when doing upside-down pushups from the wall. I guess it is more natural for me than the barbell version. I also don’t have any problems with any type of barbell bench presses even the inclines.

The reason – Well, besides the cranky angle that the barbell sets on my body, I do admit that I have been missing a lot of rotator cuff exercises recently – Y raises, Dumbbell Protraction, and Cable External rotations. I should be doing at least one of those every after workout for 3 strict sets.

I have been neglecting these exercises for a while now:

Rotator cuff exercises

Another thing – if you are also experiencing any type of discomfort in your shoulders like mine – you should have that cheeked by your own therapist. There are many things that can cause these types of pains from training imbalances to inborn physical restrictions and it is important to pinpoint what it is exactly on your end. A general guideline will simply NOT suffice.

Special attention must be given to the shoulders since those joints are basically “floating” meaning, they are not really attached to another bone, see this illustration:

anatomy shoulder joints


Eat your eggs, people!

A-Lifter- Don't forget to leave your comment/feedback below.  If this article was helpful, I am sure our book Real Talk Muscle will help you even more in your quest for muscle gain. Check it out you can read the first few chapters as well.
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5 thoughts on “Shoulders Pop When Doing Barbell Shoulder Press – Then Don’t Do it

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