Shoulder pain is usually mechanical. That means that the structure is fine, no fractures or tears. Instead, the way the shoulder is moving may be a contributing factor to the painful symptoms. The shoulder is a freely movable joint in which its health depends heavily on the muscles that control and support it to be in balance. The shoulder also requires stability from the scapula (shoulder blades).
There are some resistance exercises that are often performed at the gym that may challenge this function of the shoulder. Here are three exercises that are usually not recommended to those with shoulder pain and to overhead athletes.
Pull-downs behind the neck. This places the shoulder in an at risk position due to backward rotation while the elbows are bent. It also can put excessive stress on the neck. The alternative is to do pull-downs to the front. Sit up tall and without leaning back pull the bar to your chest. This alternative will also recruit more stabilization through the scapula.
Up-right rows. The result of this movement is excessive internal rotation. It actually closely mimics an orthopedic test used to look for shoulder impingement. The muscles worked during this exercise are the deltoids and upper traps. Other exercises can be used to challenge those same muscle groups without putting excessive stress on the shoulder joint. Shoulder shrugs target the upper trap while lateral raises work the deltoid.
Straight bar bench press. Although this is a favorite for many, consider the stress it places on the entire shoulder unit. It has been documented that this exercise leads to premature arthritis of the shoulder joint. As an alternative, use dumbbells. With dumbbells, the pressing movement results in a much more functional movement (like you’re hugging a tree, rather than punching the sky).
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