A Physical Therapist Shares 5 Moves to Help You Train With Shoulder Pain

·3 min read
Photo credit: Men's Health
Photo credit: Men's Health

Alright, guys: It’s time to stop waving your arms in circles to see if your shoulder pain magically got better today. Without taking steps to safeguard your shoulder (and surgery or physical therapy interventions as needed), we hate to say that the pain probably isn't going anywhere.

Sam Chan, DPT, ATC, C.S.C.S., DPT, ATC, C.S.C.S., physical therapist and athletic trainer from Bespoke Treatments New York, and trainer Vaughn Gray, NASM-CPT are here to help. Check out these five exercises that can help you train around your shoulder pain. Watch the video above to see the breakdown of each move and keep reading for brief overviews of the exercises.

Warmup Exercises

  • Supine Shoulder Extension

“What we're trying to do here is to wake up those muscles in the back side of the shoulder,” says Chan. “So we're thinking lats to really pull that shoulder blade backwards, to take away any possible stress at the front side of the joint.”

Start by lying on your back with your palms facing up towards the head, and using a stretchy band attached to a doorknob or some other anchor point, extend your hand towards the floor. Repeat on the opposite side. “Since we're using this exercise as a warmup to your workout, think about doing two sets of 10, repetitions [with a] super light band, low resistance,” adds Chan.

  • High Plank to Downward Dog

This exercise is all about creating stability. With your hands on the floor, move between a high plank position into a downward dog. This movement simulates the overhead press.

“So we are encouraging that nice shoulder ability, scapular motion right here, that upwards rotation, waking up the serratus anterior,” says Chan. He recommends doing two sets of 10 repetitions “just to get your body going before your primary lifts.”

  • Dumbbell Y-Raise

Standing upright with a light weight in each hand, lift your hands up to shoulder height, creating a 'Y' position with your body.

“This is going to place your shoulder in a nice healthy position. And again we're gonna increase rotator cuff activity, really getting you prepared for your workout today,” says Chan. Aim for three sets of eight to 10 repetitions.

Workout Adjustments for Shoulder Pain

  • Dumbbell Floor Press

Instead of a bench press with a barbell, which can elicit some discomfort in your shoulder, Chan suggests limiting your range of motion and moving down to the floor. “The reason why this exercise is so great is the floor is physically blocking any extra motion of the elbows," he says. That protects the shoulders and provides more stability than a barbell or even standard dumbbell bench.

Strive to keep your elbows in a 45-degree angle as you press up towards the ceiling and squeeze as you go up and down. Be sure to use decreased weight for this move in the series, especially if you're working through an injury or pain. Try to do four sets of eight to 10 repetitions.

  • Kettlebell Arm Bar

This finisher builds stability in your shoulder, something we all could use. Lying on the floor start with your right hand up to the ceiling and your right knee bent. Roll over to your side while keeping your arm vertical throughout the move and then return to the starting position.

We are asking our shoulders to “stay nice and strong, nice and stable, using all those accessory muscles surrounding the shoulder blade to really fire and train that endurance right in that area,” says Chan. Aim for three sets with five repetitions for each arm.

“Those are your five exercises to continue your workouts, even in the presence of shoulder pain,” concludes Chan. “If you have discomfort, that's really lingering, and it's bothering you throughout your exercises, be sure to speak to your medical provider for some specific advice to you.”

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