Why Do Cable Crossovers Hurt My Shoulders?

cable crossover
September 26, 2022 0 Comments

Table of Contents


In this article I will be answering the question “why do cable crossovers hurt my shoulders?”. There are many different explanations for this and I will aim to explore all of these.

Cable crossovers are a good exercise for isolating the pecs as you can get a consistent tension throughout the range of motion. You can also work the pecs from many different angles depending on the height of the cable attachments. 
cable crossover

Elbows Out Too Much

One explanation for experiencing shoulder pain when doing cable crossovers is flaring your elbows out too much when doing the flying motion. 

This can put a bit more stress on the shoulders, especially with heavier weights. It is akin to flaring elbows on the bench press increasing the risk of shoulder injuries.

In the case of cable crossovers, you want to flare your elbows out slightly but not too much when performing your flyes. I find that keeping a slight bend in the elbow helps. If your arms are completely straight you are more likely to flare excessively.

Overextending Shoulders

Overextending the shoulders back too far is another big cause of shoulder discomfort on this exercise. When you are performing cable crossovers, you should bring your elbows no more than 90 degrees to your shoulder.

If you overextend too far you are increasing the likelihood of shoulder injuries. This is also exacerbated with heavier weights. The cable crossover is a bodybuilding isolation exercise for the pecs.

As such you should focus on high reps and pumping blood into the pectorals. This exercise is not a power movement. 

Standing Too Upright

If you stand too upright when doing cable crossovers you can take some of the tension away from the pecs. It is important to lean over slightly when doing this exercise. You will engage the pecs a lot better.

Standing too upright when doing crossovers will cause your shoulders to be placed under a bit more stress. Leaning over a bit just helps to keep your shoulders in a safer position on this exercise.

Related to this is the height of the cable attachment. If you adjust the height too high then you will be in a more upright position. This will increase the likelihood of shoulder discomfort.

Some people even prefer to do cable flyes from a low position and bring the cable attachments up. This can even give you a better pump in the pecs. I would recommend giving this variation a try. 

Thumbless Grip

Utilising a thumbless grip on cable crossovers is a good way to take some tension off the shoulders. I actually perform cable crossovers and machine pec deck with a thumbless grip.

I feel as though I am able to get a better peak contraction with a thumbless grip. I also pull less with my arms so I am bringing fewer extra muscles into the exercise through deploying a thumbless grip.

I would recommend this approach to others who are feeling that they are not feeling a great mind muscle connection or peak contraction. By going thumbless you will put less stress on your shoulders as well. 

How Useful Are Chest Flyes Really?

There is a good video by AlphaDestiny which can be viewed below. He talks about why he never does chest flyes and the overall utility of the exercise. 

I agree with the points that he raises. Many people perform lots of different flying exercises – dumbbell flyes, pec deck, crossovers, etc. However, a lot of them still have lagging pec development.

This is because the bread and butter should always be compound movements. If you get stronger on your bench presses, push up and dips this will do more for your pec development than anything else.

In my case, I always focus on the presses first. I do incorporate a chest flying movement afterwards, but I keep this exercise to just one or two top sets maximum. 

This advice would apply well to the vast majority of lifters. There will be some outliers who don’t experience much chest development from bench presses. For those people it would make more sense to add more emphasis on exercises such as cable crossovers. 

There is a good article by Boxrox going into detail on cable crossovers which I recommend reading. You can view this article here.

Final Thoughts

Why do cable crossovers hurt my shoulders? There can be many different reasons for this which I have discussed in this article. I will reiterate them now to reinforce the points that I have made.

Firstly, flaring your elbows out too much puts more undue stress on your shoulders. This is as true on the bench as it is for flyes. Overextending your shoulders on the flying portion is also another common reason for shoulder pain.

Be sure not to bring your elbows past 90 degrees to your shoulders. Any additional range of motion beyond this is unnecessary and will only put more stress on your shoulders.

Standing too upright or having the cable attachment set up too high can also increase discomfort on your shoulders. Try setting up from a lower position and leaning over more. For a unique angle try setting up the attachments very low and bring them up and together on each rep. 

A thumbless grip can also be a simple solution for a lot of people, it can definitely take stress off the shoulder and avoid bringing in extra muscles unnecessarily. 

When it comes to cable crossovers as a whole, they should only serve as an assistance exercise. If your goal is to develop big pecs then your focus first and foremost should be compound pressing exercises. 

If you have any comments on this topic please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> RELATED: How To Build Big Pecs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.