T Nation


My rotators are killing me and my performance. Got any suggestions for overcoming weak tired sore tators? Is there anything i can use to heal the problem instead of the usual masking the pain with vicadin? Doc says no tare just overuse and impingment. age 41 5’10" 220 off season 205 on currently 12 %bf.

Solving The Rotator Cuff Connundrum by Eric Cressey.Look in the back issues.

Sorry, it’s “Cracking the Rotator…”
Issue 280

Stay off the pain meds and talk to your doc about NSAIDS or new generation of anti-inflammatory meds (Celebrex, Bextra, Viox). Couple weeks of working out of the impingement zone with lifts < 90 degree will also aid in recovery. If you continue to perform exercises in the painfull impingment zone (overhead presses, incline, and sometimes flat BP) you will continue to be counter productive. Rotational exercises are a must to strengthen those smaller muscles that are not significantly stimulated with most traditional lifts. I know it can be very frustrating, but sometime you have to take two steps back before you take ten forward.

Take a week or two off from upper body work. Let those suckers heal. If you continue to use them the overuse syndrome won’t go away. Pretty much every upperbody movement will put stress on the cuffs. After the 2 week lay off start doing rotator specific movements. A good place to start is Eric Cressey’s artice mentioned above. Here’s the link http://www.t-mag.com/nation_articles/280rotator2.html . You do NOT want to just jump into this. They are already overworked. Just rest them, then implement the program starting with a light load. If you over work them too quickly you’ll end up in the same situation and have to start all over again. When you resume upperbody work I would go at about 50% for 8 reps or so for 2 weeks. Then gradually increase the load/reps/sets each week until you’re back to where you want to be.

I too used to have problems with my rotator cuffs. The next couple of days after bencing they would be more doms there than my pecs. I agree with the above posts. I was benching sets of 110kg’s at a bodyweight of 75kg’s (I was new to weights and focussed hugely on bench press). But then I got weaker and weaker as I couldn’t stabilize my shoulder joint. I have just started weights again and am doing my bench work on the swiss ball. The swiss ball has allowed me to get stronger in this exercise while not giving me rotator cuff soreness. It will also let me generate more power when I go back to the exercise on the bench.

Wow, Thanks to everyone that responded.
I did read erics link and found it along
with all your suggestions to be enlightening. Thanks again.
Bourbonboy, can you elaberate on your swiss ball method? I get the impression you are doing dumbell presses with the ball in the middle of your back in order to drop your shoulder blades furthe than the bench will allow. Is this correct?

I put the apex of the ball under my cervical spine. If you drop over the ball then it is more of a decline press. Also make sure that you keep you pelvis up which means having to squeeze your hammies, glutes and low back. Another advantage of performing the exercise on the swiss ball is that it limits the rom a fraction as the end point is when your elbows and triceps come in contact with the ball. Too many people do not have full rom in the shoulder joint to bench as low as they do. I would especially presume this to be the case in anyone with rotator cuff problems. You hardly even notice the fractionally shortened rom, but it really does protect the shoulder. Remember to make sure that the swiss ball is the right size (you may need to put your feet on something like an aerobic step, if the ball is a little larger than ideal) and to keep the tongue on the roof of the mouth (where it ‘should’ be anyway).


Stop Bench Pressing and your shoulders should feel fine.

You’ve gotten some good advice from the other post, you should also have some one assess your shoulders for ROM problems, length-tension issues, ect. Address any problems these test bring up first, then you can move to a more general cuff program. Look into ART or Rolfing also.

Keep in mind that my program is intended to be a prehabilitation, not rehabilitation protocol. In fact, three of the four exercises that I prescribe in that program are contraindicated in the initial stages of rehab for external impingement.

Designing a rehab program is not something with which one can take a cookie-cutter approach; you really need to pick and choose your exercises carefully to correct imbalances. Feel free to contact me if I can help you out with setting up a program.

The best thing I did for my shoulders was just time off from any pressing movements.I took 5 weeks off and I can bench press without pain now.I use Eric’s program now and haven’t had problems since.

Look into ART, www.activereleasetechniques.com. I’ve had a few rotator cuff injuries over the years and within one session the ART doctor had a lot of ROM returned. Be forewarned, it is not for the faint of heart because it hurts like a motherfucker!

  1. Take advantage of Eric’s offer and contact him for specific advice.

  2. Stop any movements that reproduce the pain (or drop upper body training for at least a few weeks).

  3. Look into ART to get those muscles looked investigated.

  4. In the future stretch regularly to prevent the injury from returning. Don’t ignore this step.

  5. Find a good rehabilitation program (i.e., Ask Eric) to strengthen weaknesses.

  6. If you return to exactly the same program you were using before the injury expect the same problem again. You’ll need to change your whole program.

Stretch after every workout. Do external rotations every now and then (I’m doing them once a week). Don’t neglect the posterior deltoid and the middle/lower fibers of the trapezius and the rhomboids.