T Nation

Shoulder Advice!


Got the iron bug bad again after a 15-year hiatus, have found my old joints aren't thrilled with my return to the gym.

I have found certain exercises I simply can't do anymore, such as behind-the-neck lat pulldowns and pullovers, which really irritate my left shoulder. I'm really disappointed with the neck and shoulder pain I get after I squat, that was my favorite exercise- I am relegated to the pussy leg press machine now.

My stats:

39, 5'6", 155 lbs., ~10% BF, natural

I just started eating clean and hitting the weights hard March 1 and have lost 15 lbs. of fat. My problem is I've got an imbalance with my upper body lagging behind my legs. Biceps and shoulders are OK, but I would like a lot more mass on my back, triceps and chest. Any suggestions to accomplish this and minimize joint damage? i.e. I do flat and incline bench for chest, is this a bad thing at my age?

I'll post with a couple of pics when I remember to bring the damn memory card to work.


Accept that you may not be able to do those exercises. I am no fan of the anyway. Do bent-over rows and deadlifts for your back to balande oyur chest work. Add some front lat pulldowns if you wish.


And. There is nor reason why squats should hurt your neck and shoulders. Have somebody look at your technique.


re: Squats - I wonder if something like the 'Manta-Ray' pad might help you in your transition back to squats?

It sounds like you've lost some mobility in the shoulder joint. I would say that you need to drop your weights for a bit and work on regaining your range-of-motion through stretching and warm-ups.. If you can get it loose, then you might not have as many issues.



I would avoid any exercise behind the neck including pulldowns and presses.

If squatting hurts your neck, then the bar is too high, squat lower on the traps. Please exlplain a bit more what type of shoulder pain you experience when squatting. It could just be shoulder inflexibility.

Until your shoulder issues are resolved, consider front squats, they not require the external rotation of the regular back squats.


I have backed off on the weight I use for benching, that seems to help. I stop immediately if I get any sharp pains, that's only happened once.

With the squats, it seems to be the bar pressing on my neck and upper back that causes the pain, though I suppose it could be the way I'm performing them. I'll have someone else critique my form next time.

Thought I'd include a couple of pics in this thread too.




last one


Limited rom in your shoulders. That's what's forcing the bar against your neck.

Stretching the pecs and subscapularis will help. Might take several weeks though. http://www.exrx.net/StretchImages/Subscapularis/Broomstick.jpg

In the mean time you can do front squats, goblet squats, ...

Great pictures there.


It would seem you have developed quite alot for less than 4 months in the gym.


Yeah, I've been really happy with my progress. I lifted very intensely when I was between 18 and 25, and when I quit (got married and had 4 kids) for nearly 15 years, I only put on 15 lbs. of fat, up to 170. And that was eating really shitty.

I purchased Tom Venuto's "Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle" program back in February and hit it hard. I think eating clean is a big factor, but I also wring every last drop of intensity out of each set, which could be why my joints aren't entirely happy. I've backed off a little bit since.


I'll start off by saying that I'm still in my 20's, but after I took off weightlifting for about 6 months (due to surgery) I had a lot of joint pain when I returned.

I just stayed light for a while and let my body get used to moving the lower weights before I started back into higher weights. Eventually I worked up to where I broke my pr's. I also took (and still do) glucosamine and fish oil, and I feel that they help my joints feel better. Good Luck and stick with it.


I've had really bad shoulder pain and also bicipetal tendonitis. My friend said it could partly be due to squatting. I did then notice all that did hurt really bad after squatting. There's a thing called the Top Squat on liftinglarge.com. I made my own from a lawn chair and it works fantabulously, my shoulder pain and bottom of my biceps feel great. I took apart the lawn chair and used one of the 'U' pieces (which is about shoulder width), drilled 2 holes on each side and put u-bolts through them which hook them to the bar, cut out some padding so they won't slip and taped the ends for handles. I've had 450 on and it worked great. Cost me about $10.


For the shoulder mobility, do shoulder dislocates with a broom stick. Every day. Work on getting a narrower grip each week.

Also work on scapular depression and retraction. Pushups-with-a-plus, Locked-out Dips, Straight Arm Scap Pullups are all good choices.

Also work rotator cuff strength and flexibility.

Do your bench pressing with dumbbells, and do them in an alternating, 1-arm at a time fashion. Use rubber bands with them if the decrease in weight has you down.

Learn to overhead squat.

These are just suggestions, and without an assessment in person I couldn't give you any more detailed advice, but these should give you some more ideas anyway.


First off, you definately look great ... your legs look great too. I take it you must use that bike in the background a lot up hills and stuff, I'm sure that helps.


Anyway, I lifted regularly when I was about 16 til I was about 19. Then I took a good 6 years off (on and off, nothing was ever too serious if I did make it to the gym once a month)...

And since starting back, I've had some shoulder problems myself. I definately didn't remember having any problems when I was lifting from 16-19 years old...but I just learn to listen to my body like it seems you are doing. Unfortunately, if that means skipping a shoulder exercise, then that's what it has to mean.

For the past few weeks though, it's like something regenerated itself and my shoulders are normal again (I did a good bit of lighter weight front and side raises slowly for a while)...so maybe with some time things can be normal again for you.


Thanks all for the replies and advice.

I am trying a lot of the exercises and motions suggested, plus making sure I warm up adequately before any lifting involving my shoulders. I did try squats again Tuesday, but this time it was my lower back complaining. I did the first set with only the bar to make sure my form was correct, then when I tried 135 I felt my back pulling on reps 3-4. That was enough for me, so I went back to the leg press and had a great workout anyway.

I'm convinced that either through age, previous overuse, or both, there are just some exercises I'll have to avoid now that I'm nearing 40. Hell, I'm happy that I'm in pretty damn good shape for my age, as are most of us here on this forum.