Shoulder Pain When Lifting Weights – How To Avoid It

December 17, 2021 0 Comments


In this article I will be discussing how to avoid shoulder pain when lifting weights. Shoulder pain is a common problem for many bodybuilders but there are ways in which you can avoid it by adjusting the way you train. I will share from my own experiences the precautions you can take to prevent shoulder injuries and resulting pain.


Adjusting The Bodybuilding Bench Press

The majority of bodybuilders bench press using the classic “bodybuilding” form with elbows flared out and bringing the bar down higher on the chest. In my view the dangers of this technique far outweigh the potential benefits. Not only does this style of benching put a lot of strain on the shoulders, but it also can increase the likelihood of pec tears with heavy weight. Instead bodybuilders should adopt a powerlifting style bench press. This is where you pinch your shoulder blades back, bring the bar a lot lower on the chest and tuck your elbows in on the way down. This will take the shoulders out of the movement a lot more and be far safer. As Scot Mendelson says, when you are benching you want to take your shoulders out of the movement as much as possible. You want to rely a lot more on the inner tricep and utilise your whole body using “chain drive” to get the weight up. When you are driving the bar back up you want to think of driving your back into the bench instead of pushing the weight up using your arms. This is the correct way of benching, unfortunately the large majority of people bench press with incorrect mechanics. This is what leads to so many shoulder injuries from benching and a lot of shoulder pain. By following this advice you will avoid a lot of shoulder pain!

scot mendelson

Don’t Go Too Deep On Dumbbell Presses

Another very important piece of advice is not to go too deep on dumbbell bench presses and shoulder presses. With dumbbells you have more freedom of movement. You are not locked into a specific plane of motion like you are with barbells. However going too deep on dumbbell presses will put more strain on the shoulders. Instead, don’t go excessively deep. When doing dumbbell shoulder presses it is perfectly fine to go down to just below your ears. Any lower and you will increase the likelihood of shoulder strains and pain – especially when the weights are very heavy. Another tip is to turn the dumbbells inward slightly when performing dumbbell presses. This will also serve to reduce the risk of any injuries and make the movement feel more optimal.

dumbbell bench

Train The Rear Delts Hard

In order to have healthy shoulders in the long run and avoid shoulder pain it is crucial to train the rear delts very hard. Many bodybuilders focus heavily on pressing movements but don’t do enough pulling movements to balance it out. For healthy shoulders you have to match the volume of pushing movements with pulling movements. Lots of rows will help to keep the shoulders injury free and develop the back musculature at the same time. In addition, isolation movements for rear delts will help to strengthen them. Moves like rear delt machine flyes and incline reverse flyes will develop the musculature of the upper back. The rear delts are relatively small muscles so it is important to not use weights that are too heavy. The focus should be on using lighter weights for a higher number of reps.

Band pull aparts are another effective exercise that can be performed regualarly and will ensure that your shoulders stay injury free. I like to perform this exercise before doing any pressing exercise and again at the end of my sessions. Face pulls as well are another exercise for the upper back that should be performed regularly. I like to use bands for these but you can also use the rope attachment and do these in a cable station.

Click Here To See The Bands That I Use In My Training

rear delts


Rotator Cuff Exercises

The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that are located around the shoulder joint and permit movement of the arm and shoulder. Strengthening these muscles is vital in keeping the shoulder healthy long term. Rotator cuff exercises are generally overlooked by many people in their training. It’s only after they blowout their shoulder that they wished they had worked on those exercises.

A good exercise for the rotator cuffs that I like to utilise is dumbbell internal rotations. I do this exercise before performing any pressing movement in the gym. You should use ultra light dumbbells for this – I only use 2 to 4kg. Bring the elbows back at a 90 degree angle and then internally rotate the shoulder. Do this for high reps and a few sets. Another exercise I use is dumbbell external rotations. This is where you hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip and bring your elbows back close to your sides. Then simply externally rotate the dumbbells. I like to do this for high reps just like the internal rotations and a couple of sets. This is an excellent way to strengthen the rotator cuffs and warm up your shoulders thoroughly for pressing exercises. A picture of what external rotation looks like is shown below.

external rotation


To conclude, in this article I have detailed how to avoid shoulder pain when lifting weights. It is a very common problem that has plagued many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. Chronic shoulder pain can prevent you from performing various upper body exercises and also hinder your overall mobility in daily life. Therefore it is of the utmost importance to adjust the style of your training to protect your shoulders and avoid injuries. I have discussed the correct method of barbell and dumbbell bench pressing, training the rear delts hard and working the rotator cuffs. All those things will help to ensure your shoulders remain healthy long term.

If you have any questions about anything in this article please leave me a comment below. I will be happy to answer your questions and interact with you. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!


==> If You Suffer From Shoulder Pain Learn How The Shoulder Control Program Can Relieve Your Pain! <==

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