In my opinion, one of the best parts about working where we do is our amazing facilities! All of our Fit Stop PT clinics sit adjacent to world-class gym facilities with literally millions of dollars of machines and gym equipment at our disposal. That being said, we get quite a few questions from quite a few gym patrons regarding various injuries. One of the most common is the shoulder. If you’ve spent any time lifting weights you know that the shoulder is one of the most-susceptible joints to injury. Today one of our shoulder specialists, Toby Bluth, PT, DPT, is sharing 5 tips to avoid shoulder pain while exercising regularly. Try some of them out and see if you can help eliminate your shoulder pain in the gym! Almost weekly at the Fit Stop Physical Therapy, I have a conversation with one of our faithful gym members about their shoulder pain. Usually, their description of the problem goes something like this:
Member: “My shoulder has been hurting so bad lately, right here (pointing to the front part of the shoulder). I am so frustrated and worried that something is wrong. It hurts so much, especially when I am trying to do chest (usually referring to performing the bench press exercise). What should I do?”
This is a frustrating injury for the avid weightlifter. Usually this type of anterior shoulder pain is related to inflammation of the biceps tendon that runs along the front of the shoulder. Acute exacerbations of this pain will ultimately get better with some anti-inflammatories, rest, and time. However, most serious weight lifters have a really hard time waiting it out! They usually end up making the pain worse and more chronic by trying to push through the pain. The good news is there are some steps you can take in the gym to avoid this scenario in the first place? Consider the following tips in the gym to avoid hurting your shoulder:
#1 – Remember to warm up – this seems like common sense, but it is amazing how often this gets forgotten. I love the arm bike for a good shoulder warm-up, along with some simple rotator cuff exercises, which I plan on discussing in a future blog post.
#2 – Back off on chest a bit – in my opinion the chest gets overworked most of the time, often at the expense of other important muscle groups (see tip #3). This can create a muscle imbalance that can contribute to shoulder pain.
#3 – Emphasize upper back and rotator cuff strengthening – working on these muscle groups helps protect the shoulder by facilitating proper posture, and positioning of the shoulder. Having good posture and the right positioning helps decrease the likelihood of shoulder injury in the gym.
#4 – Be aware of elbow positioning during chest and shoulder exercises – keeping your elbows in front of the shoulder joint during movements like an overhead press or lateral raise can really decrease the likelihood of a shoulder injury. Also, if you are starting to notice some shoulder pain, don’t let the elbows drop below the shoulder during chest press movements (arms parallel to the ground during a bench press – no farther).
#5 – Allow for enough rest – As a minimum I recommend that you allow for at least 1 day of rest in between training the same muscle group. If it does hurt or if you are injured more rest days are indicated.
You don’t have to deal with shoulder pain while in the gym. Following these simple tips can decrease the likelihood of injury and get you back to pain-free weightlifting in the gym. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to stop by our physical therapy clinic, and stay tuned for my favorite shoulder exercises for warm-up and shoulder health!