Is Loading and Movement Good or Bad for Rotator Tear?

I seem to have torn something in my shoulder. Certain motions with my left srm are very difficult and painful even with 5lb.
Question is, would it be harmful or helpful to move through the damaged range of motion unloaded, or very lightly loaded? Or just move it as little as possible until it improves?

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I shall summon The Flats for you jdm.



How do you know?

Assuming you have a partial RC tear (common, often asymptomatic and not necessarily a pain-generator), then:

  • Reduce loading painful exercises and ranges for ~1-2 weeks to settle symptoms; substitute painful exercises with non-painful exercises
  • Once symptoms are settled, begin to reintroduce formerly painful exercises at a frequency, volume and intensity that does not stir your symptoms up

If you do stir up symptoms, don’t panic. Pain after exercise doesn’t mean you’ve done any extra damage to the cuff, it just means you’ve pissed off the area and need to give it some time to calm back down


Awesome, thanks.
I’ll answer “how do you know” when i get a chance!

@jdm135, The old tried and true advice of, “Don’t do stupid stuff,” is applicable here. If this just happened, and there is soft tissue injury, definitely don’t drive motions that are painful. It will be interesting to hear how you may have “torn something.”


If i point my arm straight out to the side, then bend the elbow 90 degrees so my forearm points straight forward and rotate such that the forearm points straight up, that tange of motion is difficult and hurts a bit. Especially with even a tiny load, like a couple pounds.

Btn pressing is basically impossible now. Strict press is super weak.

Im thinking this happened when i was playing with the 100lb sandbag, tossing backwards over shoulder a bunch last week.
@j4gga2 @Dr_Grove_Higgins
Thanks guys!

Sometimes it’s a tear, and sometimes there is just a wonky movement pattern that causes your shoulder to bind up and grind together painfully.

Maybe a tight pec, upper trap or bicep elevates or rotates or pulls your shoulder forward or something. Is the bad shoulder attached to your bad arm or your good arm?

There can also be posture issues, where the muscles around your shoulder blades aren’t doing their thing, so the front delts and neck muscles do all the work. This makes my poor shoulders do all kinds of painful grinding.

You’ve mentioned glutes not working much, tricpes not really getting worked, etc. Is it possible that your mid back and rear delts are slacking too?


@FlatsFarmer thats absolutely possible. Im not sure how I’d know…
I mostly do the big compounds. Maybe this is a wakeup call to do some bodybuilding or prehab more regularly?
If certain supporting muscles are/have always been slacking, but im only suddenly seeing symptoms, its still fair to say i have an injury and need to be careful with it, yes?

Edit to add: the bad shoulder is my left. Im right-handed. But strangely Always carry the baby in my left arm. Ooh i wonder if thats part of it…

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I would definitely pay some attention!

Try some little prehab stuff that squeezes your shoulder blades together, and see if that makes your shoulder feel better or move smoother.

Like if you do a few “Kelso Shrugs” ( a barbell shrug, only bending over like a row position) or Band Pull A Parts or Face Pulls first, does that 90 degree bent arm shoulder rotation move feel any better?

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Yeah, this isn’t necessarily diagnostic of an RC tear. A lot of different people with shoulder pain complain of similar symptoms. Its now referred to as “rotator cuff related shoulder pain”

Management is pretty much as I described above:

  • work on strengthening the internal and external rotators (especially external)
  • do some work for serratus anterior (reaching up and forward) and low trap
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@j4gga2 @FlatsFarmer @Dr_Grove_Higgins and @ the entire T-nation community!
You guys are all so helpful. I can’t express my appreciation well enough. What really blew me away was Flats connects my complaint in this thread with other seemingly unrelated comments in my training log, about muscles that don’t seem to activate or that I don’t work enough. I mean, this has got to be as close as it gets to working out in a gym full of incredibly strong people who are educated physios and coaches as well. Thanks, all of you.
I’ll try to remember to revisit this thread in a couple weeks and update.