Neck and shoulder pain can be frustrating. They make upper body training less clear, to be sure.
I solve spinal issues, nerve irritation, and injuries, including my own. No need to stop training. Keep in mind a couple things, and you’ll find you can rep out at least 100lb dumbbells and high rep Arnold presses with 60s.
1.) The well-intentioned cue to “relax neck” is asinine nonsense during shoulder training. The greater the ambient tension, the more stable and braced all nearby structures are.
2.) Yes, OVER-stressing neck and persistent, needless shrugging is bad technique. But to think you can put a vertical load on the upper body WITHOUT vertical support structures producing vertical force is folly. Ever see a gymnast nail handstand work with upper traps OFF and shoulder blades “unshrugged” and “tucked down into back pockets”? Nope.
3.) For moderate and heavy loading, absolutely someone ought to have full-flexed shoulder function (the capacity to press behind the neck). Watch Olympic lifters and throwers rehab with behind the neck jerks at 400lbs. That said, the true vertical or rear position can be bothersome when you’ve had nerve irritation, and one should go lighter for that. A slight recline keeps heavier load more reliable.
4.) Secrets - sorta - prone external rotation; thoracic mobility; and understanding that the shoulder is effectively 7 joints, not 1, plays a big role (and often leads us to look at the biceps for “shoulder” issues). Check the blog for forthcoming shoulder health tips as we explore what all this means.