Shoulder pain is perhaps the most common problem for many people today. It’s even more common amongst people who work out. Out of all the different muscles in your body, the muscles in the shoulders are the easiest to injure. Sometimes it’s not even because of what you do in the gym, there are many other reasons. Let’s explore them.
Why does my shoulder hurt?
The shoulder is a fragile area that contains a bunch of different muscles. There are two main reasons for shoulder pain, you might be a victim of one or even both. The first has to do with improper form when training. Often people round their shoulders when working out which is not the position you want to be in when performing exercises.
This is especially true for big lifts such as the bench press or any exercise where you’re using a lot of weight. By rounding your shoulders i.e. bringing them forward, you not only make the exercise less effective, but you put your shoulders in a bad position. The load of the exercise gets taken away from the muscle you’re targetting and a lot of it gets put on the shoulders instead.
The shoulders are not strong enough to withstand such a load and hence, you end up injuring the muscles inside your shoulder. A rotator cuff or tendon injury is the most common one. A lot of people don’t take the time to strengthen their shoulders or their rotator cuffs in particular. Strengthening these support muscles goes a long way in ensuring healthy shoulders in the long run.
This is the main culprit for a lot of people. Many people have sedentary lifestyles now where they sit for long periods of time behind a desk or screen. Even if you may not do those things, you probably use your phone a lot or do something that makes you sit for a long period of time. What happens is that many people find it comfortable to lean forward, round their shoulders and sit like that.
Although it may be comfortable for you, it’s definitely not for your shoulders. The rotator cuff muscles are a bunch of small muscles keeping your shoulder stable. Your shoulders go into an unnatural state when they come forward (rounded shoulders) and your rotator cuffs now have to do a lot more work to keep them stable. The shoulder joint also has a tiny gap for your arms to move that should always be maintained.
By having a poor, rounded posture, you’re not only making your rotator cuffs work more but you’re also allowing less space for the mobility of the arm in the shoulder joint. When you hear clicking or popping noises, it’s that shoulder joint because it’s out of its usual place where it has space to move. The scapula also suffers from this, and what you’re left with is shoulder pain whenever you lift your arm.
This is a serious issue that affects many people going about their day normally. Although the pain may go away sometimes due to exercise, it’s not a permanent fix. A lot of work needs to be separately done in order to fix this issue before you attack the higher weighted exercises.
How to fix the shoulder pain
As you might have guessed already, you need to fix your posture. The overall goal of everything we’ll tell you is in the end, to correct the posture. This is achieved by strengthening the muscles around your shoulder that help in stabilization. Then come the shoulder muscles themselves. Strengthening everything plus a few habitual fixes will eventually get rid of the nagging shoulder pain.
Bring your shoulders back and down when doing your exercises
For some exercises, it’s okay to bring your shoulders forward, for example, the shrug for the traps. However, it’s a general rule of thumb to always bring your shoulders back and down. This is the best posture for your shoulders and ensures they don’t take part in any exercise. In order to do this, your shoulder blades need to be retracted, almost as if you’re trying to join them together.
Another way to do it is to push your chest out. Ever watched Superman? He puts his chest out and rips his shirt off? Do that. Start from the middle of your chest, do the shirt-ripping motion Superman does and you should have the proper posture you need. When you do this, you can now safely do all your exercises without worrying about causing damage to the shoulders.
Focus on Rotator Cuff and Shoulder strengthening exercises
Before you begin a workout, it doesn’t matter what day it is. It may even be leg day for you but every day, take a bit of time and do a bit of rotator cuff work. Warming up the rotator cuff muscles before each workout is essential. Otherwise, you may set yourself up for injury. Moreover, by doing these few exercises, you can strengthen your weak shoulder muscles and can thus fix your shoulder pain.
A few exercises include the simple horizontal extension. Take a band, dumbbell or cable and start with your hand near your belly button. Using your arm, while keeping the elbows tucked in, slowly take the weight outwards, extending your arm (left side if it’s your left arm). This has to be done all the while keeping your elbows tucked in.
A good way to see if you’re doing this right is to put a towel in between your shoulders and chest, the armpit region. If the towel falls down when performing this exercise, then you’re letting the elbows come out too much. Take the resistance to as much extension as possible and repeat 10 times for each arm. Do 2-3 sets of both and you’re good to do.
Do lateral side raises and front raises in order to strengthen the front and side delts of your shoulder. These are also essential muscles that also contribute to the rock solid shoulder look. One key thing to note here is that many people do the side raises wrong. A lot of people recommend that when taking the dumbbell to the side, turn your arms such that you’re pouring a glass of water.
However, that is actually a rotator cuff killer! It causes a lot of unnecessary load on your rotator cuffs which it doesn’t need. Bring in a heavier load and that’s even worse. Instead of causing that unnecessary rotation towards the inside, rotate outwards. That will result in much better benefits obtained from the exercise and it’ll also keep your shoulder healthy.
Do the Face Pull after every workout
You may recognize the Face Pull as an exercise that’s usually done for the rear delts. The rear delts are also key muscles that help the shoulder. Moreover, if you look at the full range of motion of the exercise, you’ll notice that you rotate your arms as well when you bring the rope forwards. If you bring the weight forward as much as you can, you’re also working your shoulders, most importantly, the rotator cuff.
Therefore, it’s important that you perform the face pull after every workout to work and strengthen the rotator cuff muscles. When I say every day, that means every day you train. Even if it’s a leg or core workout, still do it after you’re done. It will go a long way in ensuring healthy shoulders and removing shoulder pain.