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I find that my shoulders feel a lot of strain when I do pressing movements, say a shoulder press with overhand grip, or even a bench press when the bar or dumbells are near my chest. So in those positions I feel rather weak, and I am worried that I will injure myself as I use heavier and heavier weight. For example, even with a shoulder press, as I start to lift heavier and heavier weights, the stability demands my make my grip wiggle a bit and put my shoulder into those awkward positions.

So I was trying to think about how best to improve my strength or resilience in the shoulder positions where I am weak. Like I can't really train heavy in these unstable positions, since that is a recipe for injury. But I need to build some muscle in those regions to help protect myself.

In watching some of the John Meadows videos, I saw that he suggests partial reps in some of the ranges where he was weaker. For example I would do a shoulder workout with regular heavy weight in the comfortable shoulder zone, but then for the last set I could do more high intensity methods like a dropset. So during this last high intensity set, after my dropset, would it make sense to add partials in this unstable region? That would let me use lower weight but hopefully still have a growth effect.

Of course, I don't want to guess about stuff like that, hence I am asking for guidance from people with more experience than myself. I could try this idea out, but I could also end up getting the injury that I am trying to avoid. Hence the question is how would I build stability in the unstable or weaker zones of my shoulders? Would this partial rep idea make sense or are there other better ways?

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As the aptly named study Progressive overload without progressing load? The effects of load or repetition progression on muscular adaptations shows, you can get nearly as good hypertrophy and max strength outcomes by doing high repetition sets with lower weights.

Therefore, especially considering you feel instability or discomfort training with ever higher weights, your load progression can work via repetition progression as well. It may even be better to do that for some time for everyone trying to progressively overload as it gives passive structures time to adapt without facing peak strains.

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The shoulder joints and muscles are just naturally vulnerable and prone to injury when using a large range of motion and going very heavy, although some are more affected than others, it's the same for everyone. I've had my fair share of shoulder pains and niggles after a workout but a tip that I heard from Eddie Hall that has served me well is just don't do both. If you want to go heavy (a weight where you can only do 6 reps or less), whether it be dumbell or barbell press, limit the range of motion to a 90° elbow I.e. only lover the elbows shoulder level or just below. On the other hand, of you do want to use a full range of motion, you'll just have to lower the weight.

Also, another common mistake people make is having the bench too upright (90°). This creates more external rotation and puts a lot more strain on the shoulder. Ideally you want to have the bench angle back slightly, at a 60-70° angle.

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  • thanks for the response. Yeah, this makes sense. Beyond just working the mobility of that region, I feel like I need to build more strength in that area. But like you said, going heavy in an area like that is not advised, so just trying to think of a way to build up that area a bit. I will also keep your positional suggestions in mind.
    – krishnab
    Sep 8, 2023 at 16:06

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