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I've had small stints of weightlifting my entire life, but recently I've tried to get more serious about it. I started taking supplements, I added more routines, I started following recommended lift patterns (5 day split), but about 4 days ago my shoulders started popping when I lift my arms (while just doing normal things with nothing in-hand) and it's disturbing me.

Both shoulders do it, but the right one does it much more readily and frequently. I wouldn't say there is true pain when it pops, but there is a small amount of discomfort (it's possible it's just mental discomfort at the idea of it though, I'm not positive).

The upper body lifts I do are: weighted pushups, chest dumbbell flies, pull ups (with various grips), standing curls, over-the-head tricep lift (one dumbbell), dumbbell laterals, and military press (dumbbells).

The possible culprits: I read that doing military press behind the head can cause problems, so I did switch to trying to do them in front of my head, but I had been doing them a few weeks above/behind the head before reading that. Also, I don't have a bench so I do the chest flies on the floor which causes my shoulder to pop sometimes because of the pressure against the floor. Also the last time I did laterals my shoulder was popping as I came up. (I might go too high with my laterals?). But who knows maybe it's the over-the-head triceps or the pushups that are doing it. I have no idea.

I stopped lifting all together when it started happening 4 days ago to see if it would heal/fix. I also started taking ibuprofen to help with inflammation and tried to make sure i was sleeping with my arms at my sides instead of above my head in case it was the way I was sleeping. But it's still popping.

Does anyone have any tips on how I can either fix my shoulder or make sure the exercises I'm doing aren't making it worse? Really don't want arthritis later in life...

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I'll try to address the paragraphs individually, as there is quite a bit to cover.

Both shoulders do it, but the right one does it much more readily and frequently.

This is normal. We're not as symmetric as we'd like to be, so we tend to have small differences between the two sides.

I wouldn't say there is true pain when it pops, but there is a small amount of discomfort (it's possible it's just mental discomfort at the idea of it though, I'm not positive).

Shoulder popping isn't inherently dangerous. What is important is that you warm up, and warm up properly before each and every workout session. You can find a ton of different activities you can do to warm up the shoulders/rotator cuffs by Googling for it, so I won't spend any time regurgitating the examples. But I recommend you do at least 10-15 minutes of warming up the shoulders.

The upper body lifts I do are: weighted pushups, chest dumbbell flies, pull ups (with various grips), standing curls, over-the-head tricep lift (one dumbbell), dumbbell laterals, and military press (dumbbells).

Not much to say here. These are generally good exercises. I especially like that you're doing military presses with dumbbells rather than barbells, and I'll elaborate on why in the next section.

Regarding the "over-the-head tricep lift (one dumbbell)", I just want to tell you to be careful to do it correctly. I don't know if you do or you don't, but it can also be a shoulder-pop trigger. I recommend this video in particular for tricep exercises. Not only does he show how to do those without risking injury, but he also offers some variation to the tricep training, and variation is important for ALL muscle groups.

In that regard, I'll also recommend that you don't stick to the same list of exercises forever. There needs to be a lot of variation because you need to challenge your muscles if you want them to respond with progress.

The possible culprits: I read that doing military press behind the head can cause problems

Bingo. Out of all the things you mentioned, this is the most probable culprit, and kudos on bringing it up. Doing behind-the-neck pressing is a very common instigator of shoulder problems, because your shoulder has this little "cap" at the end of it, and when you're doing behind-the-neck pressing, your arm bone can grind against it.

This is why I gave kudos on using dumbbells, because with dumbbells, you can easily avoid this by keeping your elbows out in front of you at a 45 degree angle.

Here is another video where more of this is explained. You'll find I'm referencing these videos quite often because it's a guy who is actually educated, and will demonstrate the hows and whys on a skeleton to make sure you understand it, rather than just take his word for it. Also, I swear to god, no affiliation. It just saves me a lot of time not having to write it all.

and tried to make sure i was sleeping with my arms at my sides instead of above my head in case it was the way I was sleeping

Kudos again. The way we sleep can often contribute to these kinds of discomforts. And as expected the guy has a video on that too. I can only speak anecdotally here, but his advice on not sleeping on an internally rotated shoulder actually helped alleviate some of my own shoulder popping shenanigans.

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  • This is all great, thank you. I never considered doing the overhead press with my elbows out front. I was still doing it the same way as if i had a barbell, so I'll have to give that a try. And I do get a bit wild with the tricep press (bringing my elbows into close, mid and wide orientations after each rep) so I'll make sure to get educated on how to do tri's right. I'm encouraged by the fact that you once had your own "shoulder popping shenanigans" and that you vanquished them. – Brimby Jul 26 '18 at 19:22
  • Yeah, shoulder popping is pretty common among those who lift. Even if you don't get rid of it, it's not a problem per se. As you say, it's only uncomfortable because it feels wrong. If you use the search term "shoulder" on Jeff Cavaliere's Youtube channel, you'll find a whole library of good, solid information about injury prevention AND alleviation. youtube.com/user/JDCav24/search?query=shoulder – Alec Jul 26 '18 at 20:23
  • I always laugh to myself when Jeff Cavaliere's videos are linked because the guy is truly a master at his craft, has a video for virtually every problem there could be, and has educated millions of people on these issues. I laugh because I think of the same videos as I read through these posts with the links already embedded. Great answer! – Frank Jul 27 '18 at 0:51

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