Summer Beach Body, Weightlifting, and Shoulder Pain

by Sarah Clough | 3 Comments

Spring is finally here and all you can think about is that long awaited warm summer sunshine and spending time by the beach with your loved ones or friends. However, before you hit up the beach, you head to the gym. You want the best beach body you can achieve. You bust out your favorite exercises: military press, wide grip bench, and use all of the deltoid machines. Your arms are looking great…but wait…now you have shoulder pain? It’s not fair! You are being healthy and going to the gym. Why do you have shoulder pain now?!

Whether you are new to the gym, or a veteran, you can get shoulder pain. History of exercise teaches us popular exercises such as military press, wide grip bench, and deltoid work. However, these popular exercises are only using a specific few of your shoulder muscles. Many common shoulder exercises completely ignore the rotator cuff muscles. The rotator cuff is essential for a healthy shoulder, as it works as a team with those muscles you work so hard to build up. Naturally it’s normal to want to work those muscles you can see in the mirror, but working only your pecs, traps, and deltoids creates an imbalance in the shoulder and can create impingement. Impingement occurs when the head of the humerus (top of your arm bone) moves upward as you raise your arm. When the humerus moves upward, it can pinch the rotator cuff muscles and other structures between the humerus bone and the acromion (the bone at the top of your shoulder where the shoulder blade and collar bone meet). A strong rotator cuff will bring the humerus downward as you raise your arm, thus creating space in the shoulder joint and avoiding impingement type pain.

So what are a couple of exercises that may save your shoulder while you work to achieve your summer beach body?

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  1. Sidelying External Rotation: In an EMG study1 published in The Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, performing external rotation while lying on your side is one of two exercises noted to fire key rotator cuff muscles the best.

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  1. Prone Horizontal Abduction: The second exercise in the study1 that works important cuff muscles is lying on your stomach and bringing your arm out to the side, keeping your thumb pointed upwards.

Your Athletico physical therapist and athletic trainer have lots of great exercises and variations of each exercise that they can share with you to enhance your gym workout, both preventing and addressing pain. Check in with your therapist or athletic trainer to discuss your personal pain or safety with fitness goals. For further reading on weightlifting and shoulder pain check out George Davies’ article in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, “Avoiding Shoulder Injury From Resistance Training”2. A summer beach body is great, but a pain free beach body is even better!

What is your favorite exercise or type of exercise to help create your summer beach body?  Tell us in the comments below!

1. Reinold, Michael et al. “Electromyographic Analysis of the Rotator Cuff and Deltoid Musculature During Common Shoulder External Rotation Exercises.” JOSPT 34.7 (2004): 385-394.

2. Davies, George et al.  “Avoiding Shoulder Injury from Resistance Training.” Strength and Conditioning 23.5 (2001): 10-18.

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3 Comments

  1. Sarah Clough

    Thank you Scott and Grant!! Would either of you like to share what your favorite type of exercise is? I am definately on a dance class and TRX kick!

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