Shoulder Press Injuries

The shoulder press or military press is a basic, upper body exercise targeting all the major shoulder muscles. The exercise is commonly performed with dumbbells or by using a barbell and lifting the weight over your head. Whenever there is excessive weight or repetitive overhead motion, there is an increased risk for shoulder injuries.

A woman is doing a seated shoulder press. Credit: mtoome/iStock/Getty Images


Excessive and repetitive overhead movement is one of the major causes of shoulder injuries. Impingement is caused by excessive rubbing of the shoulder muscles against the top part of the shoulder blade, called the acromion, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Impingement can occur from any type of shoulder press and can result in inflammation of the shoulder muscles. If inflammation does occur, seek medical condition before the injury becomes worse.


The dumbbell shoulder press allows greater freedom of movement during the exercise, which can prevent shoulder injuries from occurring. However, improper form can lead to an instability shoulder injury. An instability injury occurs when one of the shoulder joints moves or is forced out of its normal position, which could happen during the dumbbell shoulder press if one is lifting too heavy of a weight and loses control of the dumbbell. Never attempt an overhead lift without an experienced spotter in case you cannot properly complete the lift.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

The barbell shoulder press or more commonly referred to as the military press is an exercise that can damage to the shoulder muscle. Excessive load and improper form are common causes of injury during the military press. When performing this exercise always bring the barbell down in front instead of behind the neck. The behind the neck version can be hard on the rotator cuff due to the hyperextension created by bringing the bar behind the neck, according to Bodybuilding. If the rotator cuff is injured, you may lose full function of your shoulder muscles.

Back Injuries

Injuries to the back are also common during shoulder press exercises. Back injuries are primarily caused from lack of back support during the exercise. This can occur during standing or seated dumbbell or barbell press, and usually occurs when the weight gets too heavy, and the lifter leans back to try to get the weight back up. This reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and puts excess strain on the lower back, according to

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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