If you’ve worked out long enough, or are a beginner, then it won’t be unusual if you have some sort of shoulder pain. Arguably one of the most common injuries to happen to people who workout, shoulder pain is also quite nasty. The shoulder joint is one area of our body that’s really useful but highly fragile as well.
It’s very easy to injure the shoulder which is why so many people have shoulder pain. If your workouts involve a lot of overhead activity, that is also a reason. The most common injuries include tendonitis, bursitis, impingement, rotator cuff issues, and overuse. It’s the last two amongst this list that people working out face the most.
Shoulder pain can be a real hurdle as it renders you incapable of doing virtually any upper body workout. Pain is a signal by our bodies that something is wrong. Therefore, one should not take it lightly and should take proper steps to address the issue. People often skip working out altogether thinking a bit of rest will help. However, that’s true to an extent but not entirely. You’re in fact losing out and you should definitely still go to the gym. There are ways to train even with shoulder pain. Here’s what you need to do:
Typically when we hit shoulders, we try to target each head of the shoulder separately. This is done through isolation exercises where we just hit the shoulder. For example, for the mid delts, we commonly perform the lateral side raises. The problem with this is that with most of these exercises, we don’t really work our entire shoulder.
The bigger, aesthetically pleasing muscles of the shoulder are usually trained on shoulder day. The smaller, more important muscles are neglected which results in the damage in the first place. A lot of people skip rotator cuff work. The rotator cuffs are in fact the muscles that are responsible for the stability of the shoulder joint. Therefore, it’s no surprise when people that don’t devote time into strengthening their rotator cuffs get injured.
Enough of the causes of injury, now that you’re injured, what now? Do NOT go for heavy isolation work. That may aggravate the problem even further. Instead, do exercises that involve a lot of muscles which will lessen the burden on specific muscles and will promote the strengthening of the entire shoulder. The Landmine Raise is such an exercise.
All the exercise requires is a barbell. You don’t need to go heavy on this, a simple barbell without weights will do. Another reason why you shouldn’t go heavy is to prevent any aggravation of the shoulder pain you have. The exercise is the entire package for the shoulder. You hit all your front and mid delts, as well as the anterior delt, the rotator cuffs, and the lats. Aim for 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps depending on your shoulder health.
Take it slowly and try to progress by adding small weights every week or so. If you are unable to then just increase the number of reps. It’ll go a long way in strengthening your shoulders which will get rid of the pain.
Change the position of your elbows when you press
Perhaps the father of all shoulder exercises is the Overhead shoulder press. There are many variations such as the military press or the Arnold press and many more. The exercise is versatile as well because you can either do it on a machine or with a barbell or dumbbells. The overall nature or movement of the exercise revolves around pressing, taking your arms at shoulder level and pressing up.
More or less the way the pressing movement is done is the same for each variation. What a lot of people do is flare their elbows out which puts their shoulders in an unnatural position. After putting the shoulders in such a position, you now have to lift heavy loads with them, which causes trouble. Bring your elbows a bit inward and you’ll be in a much safer position when performing the exercise.
However, that’s for future reference, what about now with a shoulder injury? The idea is still the same. Modifying the position of your elbows will help relieve the pain you experience during the workout. It’s a simple change, all you need to do is bring your elbows forward. However, keep in mind this will require dumbbells so you will need to ditch the bar and machine for this.
Start by sitting in a normal pressing position (as shown above), then slowly bring your elbows forward. When the elbows are close to the sides of your face, the dumbbell should be making a cross with the shoulder once you bring it down now. This is a much safer position to press and you’ll feel it immediately. It’ll also help strengthen the few weak areas of your shoulder to fix the issue long-term.
The Plank Band/Cable Row
So far, I’ve shown you an alternate way to do your shoulder exercises and another effective shoulder exercise. However, the problem is that those exercises are taxing and they probably won’t be providing enough rest that your shoulders need. It’s recommended to work those shoulders once or twice a week with low weights for strengthening.
However, then comes another issue. If, even after making modifications to how you train your shoulders thing don’t get better, then there’s a problem. It’s recommended that you stop your pressing exercises, even the modified ones so you can give more rest to your shoulders for strengthening. In order to hit your shoulders and your lower body at the same time, the plank band/cable row is a great exercise.
It’s a modified version of the plank, so what you do is start with the plank position. If you’re at home, a band will do otherwise, a cable machine in the gym works great. When you’re in the plank position, widen your feet a bit more than usual. After that, grab the cable/band with one hand and start performing controlled rows. This not only helps your shoulder but it also puts your glutes, abs, obliques, and lats to work as well.
All these muscles are highly essential for helping with stability which includes shoulder stability. A strong core helps you perform your big lifts in a more controlled manner. The lats help with increasing shoulder stability by aiding the rotator cuffs. It’s a great exercise that works on all the fundamental aspects of stability.
When to perform these exercises
If it’s your shoulder day, then you should definitely perform these exercises and ditch the other isolation ones. Focus on face pulls, some rear delt and rotator cuff work, then these exercises. If it’s not shoulder day, you should still perform a few of these exercises.
You should perform the two shoulder exercises (minus the presses) before every workout. They’ll hit each shoulder muscle and other muscles as well. Therefore, you’ll get an effective warmup, and by warming up those shoulders properly, you can work out normally.
You’ll enjoy a painless workout by spending a few minutes every day. However, that’s a quick fix, strengthening the shoulders long-term should be the main goal so shift a bit of the focus in your training to that as well.