Shoulder pain is very common. Your risk of this type of injury is higher if you regularly perform intense weight-training activities (e.g. bench-press or shoulder-press) and you use poor technique.
NOTE: you don’t have to completely stop these exercises. Strength-training is extremely important for your health and fitness. However, certain positions and exercises can exacerbate your risk.
In this article we will discuss the weight-training positions and exercises to avoid to lower your risk of shoulder problems.
1. Limit overhead exercises.
A good example of an overhead exercise is a military press. This type of exercise can produce excessive shearing forces around your shoulder, which increases your risk of shoulder injury.
Another disadvantage of overhead exercises is that most of them have limited range of movement, which may negatively affect your results. Range of movement means that the part of the body you are exercising goes from one end-range position (e.g. fully straightened) to the opposite (e.g. fully bent). This is important when you are performing strengthening exercises: if the exercise involves only half of your available range, it may not be as effective.
2. Beware of the dislocation position.
The dislocation position of the shoulder is when your arm is raised up to 90 degrees and twisted out and backwards (e.g. when you scratch the back of your head). In this position, your shoulder ball-and-socket joint becomes unstable, which sometimes results in a dislocation.
Avoid this position while you are exercising, especially if you’re using reasonably heavy resistance, or you have prior history of dislocation. Dumbbells and cables are less constrictive, so they provide more freedom of movement.
3. Replace some of your bench-pressing with “free shoulder blade exercises”.
When your are in a typical “bench-press” position, your shoulder blades are “stuck” under your body weight, and are not free to move. Your shoulder blades need to adjust themselves along with your arm movements to reduce the stress on your shoulder joints. Inability to adjust may result in excess shearing forces around your shoulder, which in turn may lead to rotator cuff or biceps injury.
That’s why we recommend that you cycle your bench-press exercises with exercises that involve free shoulder blade movements such as push-ups or cables presses.
4. Avoid the impingement position.
Impingement is “pinching” of tissue between the outer end of the shoulder blade and the top of the arm bone (or the ball of the shoulder joint). This type of pinching often happens when your arm is raised up and twisted inwards (please see the image). Getting your arm into this position repetitively can result in swelling, inflammation and pain in your shoulder.
Once inflammation takes hold, it may take months for it to settle down. Common exercises that place your shoulder in this dangerous position include the upright row (especially with close grip), lateral raises with your thumbs to the floor, and some barbell bench-press techniques.
I hope that these tips will help you to avoid shoulder injuries in the gym. If you have any questions regarding this article, please call BodyFit Physiotherapy Howick or Mt Wellington Physiotherapy on 09-5328942 or simply pop in to one of the clinics.