T Nation

Shoulder Pain

I know this is a bit difficult to pin down without all of the facts or a visit to the doctor, but I thought someone out there might have experinced something similar.

I have been having pretty bad shoulder pain after chest day and shoulder day. It lasts for about a week. However, it is uncomfortable all the time and has been for about 3 years. I have stopped working shoulders about 3 weeks ago.

I’m thinking this is the main problem…It seems as though when I miss a workout, it is usually back and when I work back it is usually half ass. I happen to love chest. Over the years, I’m 37 and have been training for over 20 years, I have created an imbalance of muscle strength between pushing exercises and pulling exercises. I recently started 10 sets of 5. I use 315lbs for bench but can only use 165lbs for barbell row. I can only do 10 sets of 1 pull up. (stop laughing) I thought I would stay at 315 for the bench and try to continue increasing my weight for back. I am hoping this will help over the next several months. If not, of course I will see a Dr.

Any thoughts or experiences from anyone?


Yup. I had a similar experience. To solve this problem, at the advice of my M.D., I had to detrain my chest and front delts for a few weeks, A.R.T. for some adhesions and injury from a pronated humerus, and get realy serious about training back.
all together it took about 6 wks. and was totaly worth it.

The book seven minute rotator cuff solution thoroughly explains the shoulders anatomy and the kinesiology of various excercises.

One of the things you can learn from it is that both the pecs and lats internally rotate the humerous. What happens is people who try to have balance between the pushing and pulling muscles end up overwhelming the external rotators. The shoulder horn is a device that is designed for working the external rotators.

You would probably do well just to get the book from health for life. It’s over 200 pages and has a lot of information. It helped me.

You seem to have pinned down the problem yourself. It’s time to start working back more seriously now. Sifu is right about the lats being internal rotators. The problem most people have is that they only focus on lats when they work “back”. You need to get plenty of upper back work too. I strongly recommend you start doing Neanderthal No More. It focuses on all of those back muscles most people neglect. You should definitely see an ART practitioner as well. Take it from someone who has been down this road. I am finally starting to see some relief in my shoulders, after 3 years of pain. My upper back is stronger and I feel like my posture has improved as well. Funny how you rarely if ever here of Oly lifters having these problems.

Thanks for all the input. Great advice! I hope I will start to see some relief soon.

Pittycent, I’ll try help you as best as possible (might be a bit of a read).

In the past I’ve experienced severe shoulder impingement which lead to pain and difficulty with any chest (bench press) and shoulder exercises (shoulder press). I saw all my gains disappearing before me and it got so bad I couldn’t even abduct my shoulder and lift my hand to wipe my face.

Through further research and undergoing therapy I can proudly say my shoulder is stronger than ever and I would recommend rotator cuff exercises to anyone entering a gym. They only took me about 20 mins to do, and after a few week I noticed a significant difference.

#In easy terms, the rotator cuff muscles - subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor- stabilise the shoulder and work with the deltoid through movement. It allows you to lift your shoulder and place it in an overhead position. Repetitive overhead activity can result in the supraspinatus impinging on the acromium process.

In some people the shape of the acromium can result in impingement while others will not experience any injury. In other cases the supraspinatus is impinged between the greater tuberosity of the humeral head. The muscle is pinched when the arm is lifted. See here for further explanations: http://www.physsportsmed.com/issues/1997/06jun/wolin.htm

#Although strength exercises can build specific parts of the body, the rotator cuff is almost always neglected in strength training. Try targeting and training your rotator cuff and you wouldn’t believe how using a light dumbell can cause you to shout in a great burning feeling, not a tearing way, but a good burn as if you’ve lifted the heaviest weight to date. For most people, regardless whether they experience impingement or not, rotator cuff exercises would take about 15-20 mins a week. For more rapid recovery, I was directed to train these muscles every second day for a few weeks, and what a difference it made. See here for shoulder exercises focussing on abducted external rotation, external rotation and internal rotation (exercise 1,2 and 3): http://familydoctor.org/265.xml
External rotation shown here in exercise 7, and a variation of shoulder internal rotation shown in exercise 8: http://www.nismat.org/orthocor/programs/upper/upperex.html#Ex7

After picking up around 10kg (22lbs) dumbell weight or even less, and performing about 10-12 reps and a few sets of each exercise, I can say the feeling is like a muscle you’ve never worked before that’s growing and begging for mercy! You can also find you can perform the external rotation exercise (exercise 3 - in first link) can be performed sitting and using your other arm as resistance, or a wall as resistance.

For me, after a month of following the program, when it came to bench I found the initial movement of pushing the weight from the chest to be significantly stronger.

#Other exercises recommended by the sports physio included: standing facing a wall with arms at right angles to the body and clenched fists. Standing slightly from the wall and with elbows in tight, pushing as hard as you can until your shoulder experiences fatigue. This can also be done facing away from the wall, standing with your back to it and arms by your side, and pushing your clenched fists back towards the wall and holding the contraction until fatigue.
See this image: http://alpha.health.yahoo.com/images/health/hw/nr551549.jpg

Image explanation: These exercises are similar to each other but differ in the direction you push your arm.

  • Flex: Stand facing a wall or doorjamb, about 6 in. (15.2 cm) or less back, so that your toes are touching the wall. Hold your affected arm against your body. Make a closed fist with your thumb on top and gently push your hand forward into the wall, holding for 5 seconds. The force when you push your hand against the wall should be about 25% to 50% of your ability.
  • Extension: Stand with your back flat against a wall. Your upper arm should be against the wall, with your elbow bent 90 degrees (straight ahead). Your hand should make a fist with your thumb on top. Push your elbow gently back against the wall, holding for 5 seconds.

#I also made some minor adjustments to my technique and lowered my elbows slightly towards my body, about a 45 degree angle when performing bench. This engages slightly more use of your tricpes but reduces the chance of shoulder impingement.

#Finally, these articles provide some of the best information on shoulder stretching and avoiding injury I’ve ever read:

Hope that helps.

This site is the best around. Found this great article on T-Nation:


Great info! Thanks for the help.

i agree that some of your problem is in your rotator cuff. i’ve had the same problem that when i’d get to the bottom of the bench it would feel like a knife sticking in my delts. i did more work on my over all delt workout and back. the rhomboids are the muscles between the scapulas and attach to the humerous at the shoulder. when the pecs are tight they pull everything forward causing stress on everything. some of the problem also could be you have trigger points that need to be released in the muscles restricting the range of motion. a good massage therapist could be a big help…