OAPU sore shoulders

George Locke

Level 2 Valued Member
A while back I was working on my push ups, and I found that my shoulders would get sore in a way that didn't feel great. Like, the soreness would start on the day of training rather than the day after like typical DOMS. I've had similar symptoms in the past from barbell bench press.

I've always done more horizontal than vertical pressing, and I think the strength of my pecs has outpaced that of my delts. I thought I might improve the situation by doing a block where I emphasized KB press. So that's been about two months where I did KB press Monday/Wednesday and close push ups on Fridays. (Great progress on the KB press, I'm happy to say. Went from a shaky 1RM with 24kg to a solid 2 reps on the RHS and a shakier 2RM on the left, along with increased reps on my 40# bell.)

So now I thought I would move back to horizontal presses. Yesterday I did some OAPU's (elevated on a desk a few inches below hip height) doing sets of 1-3 on what felt like a 4RM, and by the end of the day I got that same pain. It's a bit worse now.

I have no injury history aside from a self-diagnosed strain in my rotator cuff caused by a heavy deadlift performed without setting my shoulders (that was ~January and it still feels sore in the mornings sometimes). This symptom occurred sometimes before that happened, so I'm pretty sure it's unrelated.

It feels similar to DOMS in my anterior deltoids, but it's more tender. There's some passive tone in a particular chord of both my delts (the frontmost/lowest part of the muscle), and that's where the pain is located. With the close push ups, I found that mental focus on chest tension seemed to help.

Does this sound like connective tissue problems/tendonitis? Should I work with more reps in reserve or with a greater elevation? Should I try archer push ups? (Close push ups were getting to a 10+RM depending on distance - diamond push ups feel wrong on my outer wrist bones.) Should I consult a doctor/PT/SFB?
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
@George Locke , how is your shoulder position as you do the push-up? Try an easy elevation (against the wall is fine) and watch your shoulder closely. Does it "dump" forward, towards your hand and up towards your ear, as you descend? It should stay locked in place with the lats -- pulled down towards the hip -- all the way down and all the way up, but it's very common to see people lose this. Even people that get it right at depth will tend to dump forward when they go too deep. Recommended depth is to where the tip of the elbow is above the top of the shoulder at the bottom of the push-up.

That might not be what's going on with you, but is an easy thing to check. I know when I lose that and work too hard with poor shoulder position, I tend to feel what you describe.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

In addition to @Anna C 's excellent post regarding technique, you can also do some shoulder stretch to improve flexibility, mobility and recovery.

For instance, shoulder "dislocation", pulling a thin resistance band outwards, etc...

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Pavel Macek

Level 9 Valued Member
Master Certified Instructor
Focus on all OAPU skills we teach at Bodyweight Course or SFB Cert, especially:

- anti-shrugging
- feed forward tension
- corkscrew
- gripping the floor with your paws
- active negative

Also:

- select appropriate variation, and do about of your RM reps
- add some pulling exercises (pull-ups, rows; swings, single-leg deadlifts... )
 

Philippe Geoffrion

Level 6 Valued Member
A video may help you view and analyze your technique as well. I've noticed with myself , I've thought I had great technique/position on some lifts and watching video realized...there are specific things I found I need to work on. Implement them, and film again.
 

George Locke

Level 2 Valued Member
Thanks for the suggestions. I'll use video to check out my technique. Probably I'll post one here later today :)

I do KB rows on the same day as push-ups, and in general, I feel like my pulling is already stronger than my pulling. I have a stretch strap for dislocates; I have done band pull aparts in the past but not recently. I do stretch my shoulders as part of my dynamic warm up and cool-down. (I tend to slump forward, but I've improved my posture quite a lot over the last few years.)

- anti-shrugging
- feed forward tension
- corkscrew
- gripping the floor with your paws
- active negative
Most of those techniques I'm familiar with from TNW, but I'll look into feed-forward tension (seems like PttP is the main reference? I also find this Feed Forward Tension: A Fitness article )

I'll apply the advice given and get back to you.
 

George Locke

Level 2 Valued Member
Update: I just wanted to note that I got very similar soreness from doing pull ups recently. I am guessing that this means connective tissue is the culprit and not the deltoid muscle itself.

My routine currently employs KB rows as the main pull, so I'm not doing pull ups any regularity, but I cranked a few sets out on impulse recently. I did 7 + 6 + 6 + 6 over the course of about 20 minutes while going about my morning routine (doorway pull up bar). This was all at ~ 1 RIR, and without much in the way of warming up (some very brief dynamic stretching and a few scap pull ups before each set).

If I'm right and it is a tendon/ligament issue, it's interesting because the soreness was previously accompanied by muscle tone/spasm in a particular chord of the deltoid near the pain, and the pushing on the muscle felt painful. This effect was evident but not as pronounced in this case. Symptoms disappeared over a few days during which I did very little training.

The other observation I've made is that just that this seems to be an instance of the general rule that injuries are caused by one of two things: chronic high stress or unaccustomed, acute stress. Not that I had much of an injury, but the pull ups were definitely an unaccustomed stress.

In other news, my OAPU's at my previous elevation went from 3 to 15 in a month. It's not entirely a fair comparison because I started using a table with a flat edge instead of rounded, meaning that my hand is outside my shoulder (normal push up width) rather than being in line with my ribs (~diamond push up width). Even so, a large part of this is because of improved skill with the movement. In particular, I've found that I really need to spread my feet to prevent losing my balance (foot on working side loses traction). I haven't noticed this with one-arm planks on the floor, so I think it must have something to do with the elevation?
 
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