Rotator cuff impingement syndrome, pathology, and other shoulder problems fall into the bigger category of mechanical shoulder pain. That is the “I feel pain when I do this, Dr.” type of shoulder issues.
There is no cure all trick for mechanical shoulder pain. There is no reason that healthy lifters cannot troubleshoot their way back to healthy training.
To help you begin, I have modified workouts from shoulder professionals and added some tactics I have learned along the way. Here are three techniques that can be done using minimal equipment.
1 Facilitate your Rotator Cuff
The rotator cuff muscles prevent any unwanted joint motion and help stabilize the shoulder. You could use bands that would provide resistance to these four muscles, enhance their activity, and possibly make the movement pattern a little more comfortable.
Check out the two workouts below. When you perform them, use the least amount of band resistance you can. A thin, flat 1 foot loop of tubing is the best. Longer, really light resistance bands might work but will need to be looped twice for the first two techniques. Drop the weight by about 50% when attempting these at first since the band applies an added challenge.
Wrap a circular band around the wrists and start with the dumbbells a little higher than shoulder height. Press the dumbbells over your head while keeping tension on the band.
Wrap a circular band around both of your wrists. Press the dumbbells up over your chest while keeping tension on the band.
2 Focus on the Scapula
The scapula should move as your shoulder begins to move. Keeping the shoulder blade in a fixed position throughout the movement is likely to interfere with normal shoulder mechanics.
Shoulder pain could be equally disruptive to shoulder mechanics. The next exercise will encourage scapular movement and help enhance the activity of the muscles that act on them.
Applying a forward pressure when doing the press recruits the serratus anterior and helps scapula upward rotation.
Set up with bar sitting on the safety pins at the height of your collarbone. Put one foot just slightly ahead of the other one.
Simultaneously push the bar upward and forward as you do the press. Keep contact between the rack and the bar. Keep pushing forward against the rack as you are lowering the bar.
Another method to focus on the scapula is to press with a Viking or landmine setup. The horizontal vector of resistance that’s applied by the landmine helps with upward rotation and protraction of your shoulder blades. The arced path of the landmine might also benefit those that suffer from end-range overhead shoulder pain since it avoids this position. You can use a resistance band to help counteract the loss of resistance while at the top of the landmine press.
Kneel on the same side as your workout arm. Focus on reaching upward and outward as you press.
3 Promote the Mid-Back Extension
Overhead lifting requires enough extension of your mid-back. When you have more thoracic extension, you need less motion from your shoulder to achieve the overhead position.
On top of that, changing up the thoracic spine position might change the length-tension relationships of the muscles of our shoulder complex and even how your shoulder blade moves on the ribcage. So improving the thoracic extension is a low-hanging fruit for helping your shoulder.
Tuck your chin into your chest, hug your body and lie down with the foam roller along your mid-back. Use the foam roller as a fulcrum by extending or arching the part of your spine just above the roller. Keep your chin tucked into your chest and your abs engaged to localize the movement better.
After 1 to 2 minutes of thoracic extensions, retest the movement that cause pain, but this time with more mid-back extension. Focus on keeping the chest up with your abs engaged, which helps encourage movement from the thoracic spine instead of the low back.
Author: Steven Sinclaire