What muscle is involved in lifting a straight arm over your head?

6 Answers
I can not lift my left arm above my sholder level over my head, i have no pain or injury; I believe it to be weakness of the muscle, and would like to gain strength by excersing the proper muscle.

If you are talking about an overhead press similar to a military press where you are either standing or sitting down and pushing the weights directly vertically over your head, then the main muscle that are being hit are your shoulders. In particular, the shoulders itself is actually split into three sections. The front, known as the anterior deltoid, is hit the most while you do a military press. The anterior deltoid or front shoulders are also trained the most when people work their chest muscles from exercises such as the bench press or incline presses. Therefore, it is quite common that your front shoulders or anterior deltoids would be very over developed when compared to your middle and back sections of your shoulder muscle. A very critical thing to be aware of is that because a certain angle of your shoulder is so much stronger than the other side, it is constantly pulling it towards the stronger end, and this may result in a slightly strained joint because it is being gradually pulled in one direction over the years. You will not notice anything, but day by day after many years, you may suddenly notice something but it could be too late. Therefore, you must purposely target the middle and the back shoulder muscles as well. This can be done with lateral raises to target the middle shoulder or do a seated renegade row which can really target your back shoulder muscles. This way, you would have targeted all three angles and all three sides of the shoulder to give a healthy all round muscle to strengthen your shoulder joint.


Hello Bagoma88

I agree that a consultation with your Doctor is definitely called for first and foremost - not exercise. You may end up doing far more damage than good without properly having it diagnosed first!

I had a close friend in my younger days that had a problem similar to what you SEEM to be describing. His was due to a deformity in several muscles and the boney processes that didn't form correctly during development, (mostly the scapula and several processes that were not "aligned" correctly.) This bodes the question, "have you always had the condition?"

My friend mostly had difficulty raising his arm above his head from the side, such as if one were preforming jumping jacks. But I believe just raising is arm was not possible, like a tightness in the musculature, but while it may have seemed like something that could be "stretched out" over a long period of time, his Doctor(s) seemed to arrive at the consensus that it would damage his arm further as well as cause damage to his other arm due to overcompensation I presume.

Best of luck!


Before beginning any exercise regimen, you should make sure you're healthy enough to withstand the increased bodily effort that exercise demands.

You might try a simple rotator cup stretch that will determine if it is torn or damaged - any pain at all, and you should visit your doctor.

Of course assuming that you've done that, then its your deltoid, biceps and quadriceps that maintain the muscular motion required to lift your arm above the shoulder - I would suggest getting some light arm weights to work them out, of course stretching them before you do so.


For straight arm raises the main issue would be mainly the trapezius muscle, which is very untrained in people of the 21th century. Other smaller upper back muscles can pose a problem too, but only minor.


Sounds like a rotator cuff injury. See an MD to make sure it's just strained and not torn. I injured mine and it took almost 6 months before I could lift my arm past my waist level.


What makes you believe it's a muscle and not a orn rotator cuff or bursitis?