T Nation

Torn Rotator Cuff?


I need some advice from weight lifters on this one.

two weeks ago i injured my shoulder, a MRI showing a 50% tear in a rotator cuff tendon. Im going through physical therapy right now to try to avoid having surgery. The therapy is already starting to relieve the pain, so naturally I tried to start lifing light with nothing good coming from that. (benching the bar about killed me)

So has anybody delt with this sort of injury before, and what advice could one give me, to make the best recovery possible to get me back in the gym, and on the ball field?


I've never had a bad shoulder injury like a rotator cuff tear (only a strain or two). I know when I strained my rotator cuff, I couldn't lift anything that involved my shoulder for like 3 weeks.

I would say, wait until there is no pain whatsoever and once that happens start with really light weights, possibly even lower than the bar with DB's.


Check out this thread:


I detail the rehab I went through. I was only told that I had a "slight" tear, I'm assuming it may be less severe than the 50% tear you describe.

The PT has worked wonders for me.


Thanks bigmentz, my PT is using ultra sound and elcro-therapy, as well as the light dumbell exercises.

one more question. How long should I expect before I can start lifting again from your experience?


I never stopped lifting entirely.

On the advice of the PT, I cut out all forms of benching, flyes, dips, and overhead pressing (and any other movements that irritated the shoulder). Really the only shoulder work I was doing was the PT. I was able to continue with movements like rows, curls, some tricep exercises, and legs.

After a couple of weeks, I started doing some unilateral DB benching and overhead pressing with my right side (my left side was the bad one). I just couldn't stand the total layoff. I just made sure to keep the left arm totally immobilized during the movements.

It took about 12 weeks before I was able to get back on the bench again, for some light work. I've been back at it for about 8 weeks now. I started really light, and I'm still not close to approaching my all time best, but I hit 3X5 with 295 pounds last week with no pain. My left side still needs to gain some strength back, but it's improving. I'm no longer under the PTs care, but I continue to do the prescribed rehab exercises at least 3X a week. I've slowly added back in some of the other movements that caused pain, like flyes and dips, even some light overhead pressing (the PT basically told me that overhead pressing should be out for me, for good, but I'm not cool with that...).

My biggest advice would be not to rush it. You will know when you are ready.


My advice as someone who works with patients that have a variety of shoulder injuries, DON'T RUSH IT!!! I am an ATC, been in the field for over 13 years. Keep working with your PT, learning the correct way to work your rotator cuff and scapular stabalizers. I would not do any pressing movements until your PT says it's okay to. He/she knows how well you're progressing, and if they're good, will know when to add in pressing movements. Which will probably be elevated push ups(hands on table, etc.), before adding external resistance-BB or DB. If you try to do any pressing movements or dips too early in rehab, you could completely tear the tendon that is 50% torn. Hope this helps.


An oldie but a goodie , put both arms straight out to the sides shoulder level and "draw " circles slowly . Start small for 10 , then medium for 10 then large for 10 then change directions . Does a great job of rehab on all the small muscles of the shoulder girdle .


I tore my rotator cuff about %50 as well last October playing baseball. I'm a pitcher and this side tracked my off season.

So, I sought out how to make my shoulder stronger for the future and found an Olympic weightlifting gym.

I talked to the coach there and we worked out a plan to mix olympic lifting, power lifting and baseball drills into a regime. As it turned out I've taken this season off to get my shoulder healthy.

I still have occasional twinges, but nowhere near the discomfort I was having. If you want to avoid surgery you have to add muscle balance and train your cuff directly.

Do not be afraid to take time off from the sport directly because it will benefit you in the long run.

Good luck getting your mobility and strength back, it takes time and commitment.
I myself cannot wait to start throwing again in October.


Yeah I definitely agree with every one else. Your injury needs time to heal and mend itself. I'm a powerlifter and occasionally my rotator cuffs lock up my shoulders when pressing. I injured mine but I didn't go to rehab. I did my own rehab by just working out with really light weight for high repetitions with very little rest. I built up muscle and it finally healed about 8 weeks later and I was able to return to lifting heavy weight again. Hope you heal fast.