Training with shoulder pain

Shoulder pain is a very common training complaint and when left un-managed can develop into a serious injury, which requires rest and lots of rehab. We can prevent many injuries by improving muscle balance and strength.

In this blog we will cover off the following:

  1. Understanding the shoulder joint
  2. Why we might get shoulder pain when training
  3. Give you some simple tips to prevent developing shoulder pain
  4. Go through some exercises that are good if you are suffering from shoulder pain.


Understanding the shoulder joint

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, and is the most mobile joint in the body but must sacrifice stability, therefore is prone to injury easily. This means particularly when moving the shoulder into overhead positions or when holding weights away from the body, the shoulder can be vulnerable. The shoulder requires a large amount of control to perform exercises such as bench press, burpees or chin ups.

The shoulder is held in place by four muscles, collectively these are known as the rotator cuff (RTC). These muscles act as pulleys balancing the humerus in the ball and socket (glenoid labrum). Bursa, ligaments and tendons surround the joint to help further stabilise the joint by adding extra coverage and add tension to the shoulder when moving into these overhead positions or when holding weight away from the body.


Why do we get shoulder pain when weights training?

Over-head exercises such as chin ups, shoulder press or bench press are movements which can cause stress to the shoulder, as the muscle and ligament work hard to keep the ball centred in the socket. Poor muscle balance or control can cause irritation in the shoulder when muscles, ligaments or bursa become compressed or over stressed. This in turn can lead to movement compensations that we don’t realise we do at the time but will become apparent when in shoulder injury occurs, these types of injuries are usually the most difficult to rehab.

The rotator cuff provides support from both front and back to help keep the shoulder centred. The majority of our clients with shoulder pain have posterior shoulder weakness that leads to shoulder pain that prevents the shoulder from restoring to full health and continuing with altered or compensated movements.

Furthermore, we will use our anterior chain such as biceps and chest more often in everyday life while working on a computer or daily jobs, these repetitive movements result in muscular tightness and poor muscular balance with the shoulder complex.


What can we do to help prevent these injuries when training?

Rotator cuff (RTC) exercises are similar to core strengthening exercise for your back. Doing these regularly will help prevent injury and keep the muscle switched on when training. The four-muscle group that makes up the rotator cuff (supraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis and infraspinatus) provides much of the stability needed in the shoulder. Following the simple exercises below will help you warm up the shoulder, to ensure these muscles are firing correctly before starting an exercise programme. Here are some examples:


RTC theraband exercises



Imagine a skewer has fixed the elbow in place traveling through the shoulder and move your shoulder around this fixed point


RTC / Scapula YWA’s on gym ball


Hands start on the floor, extend trunk and lift hands up to “Y” position (see left) then relax to starting positing, again extend trunk and move arms into “W”position (see middle), return to relax starting position before performing “A” (see right).


What exercise can I do if suffering with shoulder pain?

Training while you are in pain is not a good idea, however continuing to do exercises in pain-free positions will keep your shoulder strong and assist with a quicker recovery. Depending on the severity of your pain and injury, seek out some professional advice before carrying out any of these exercises.

These exercises particularly focus on triceps and posterior shoulder / scapula strength, which will help return balance and improve stability. These exercises should not cause pain while performing and should be stopped if pain occurs when performing.


Four Point Kneeling Press up with alternate leg extension



Rowing                                                      Lat Pull Downs



Single Arm Bent over Row



Single Arm Kettle Bell Lunges:



Bent over Row: