Weight lifting is a great way to get into shape, achieve your goals and progress over time at your lifts. Many people go to the gym as a part of their weekly routine whilst others go to compete professionally. Regardless of the category you fall into, you’re always prone to injuries. Especially common shoulder injuries from working out.
The shoulder region consists of 4 main joints;
The main joint that comes to people’s mind when thinking about the shoulder is the glenohumeral joint or the ball and socket joint. This is great for mobility, as the shoulder joint can do a range of activities with ease. However, greater mobility leads to less stability.
But this is where the other structures of the shoulder come into play. The ligaments, muscles and synovium play a vital role in stabilising the shoulder joint and allowing for movements to occur safely without injury or tear.
The shoulder is composed of multiple muscles and soft tissue structures. A primary being the rotator cuff muscles. This includes Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis and the Teres Minor and Major. These rotator cuff muscles are vital in allowing for daily movements of the arm such as moving it up, towards the side and backwards. Another muscle that is part of the shoulder and is commonly neglected is the biceps brachii.
The rotator muscles help stabilize the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder. They consist of Subscapularis, Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus and Teres Minor. They also help us with our daily actions such as bringing our arms up, towards the side and rotating them.
With weight training, you are progressively putting them under tension especially when putting a high load on them. This can lead to acute tears in the rotator cuffs. You can also get degenerative tears which happen over a chronic time frame of continuous damage to the muscles until they eventually tear or rupture.
Shoulder tendinopathy is another common injury that occurs at the shoulder. It also affects the rotator cuff muscles and occurs due to repetitive overuse, increased intensity and changes in your training from the gym or sports-related activities. These repetitive actions at the gym can cause microtrauma to the tendons of the muscles such as the supraspinatus. Although this injury is most commonly seen in athletes who do overhead activities such as volleyball, throwing and swimming, It can still affect the gym population that overloads their shoulders incorrectly.
Dislocation of the shoulder is a serious injury that happens at extremes of shoulder motion. It happens in the athletes more so than the gym members. Dislocation can be described as the “ball popping out of the shoulder socket”. It occurs when the shoulders are rotated excessively from their normal positioning. This can be seen when performing dumbbell shoulder presses and your shoulders could excessively rotate backwards causing a dislocation of the shoulder. This is very uncommon and occurs when performing exercises with incorrect technique and loading high weights. This is extremely painful and you will likely hear a pop sound, and see a visual deformity. It’s best to visit your nearest medical professional if this does happen to handle the situation as best and safely as possible.
Stretching and warming up is one of the best ways to minimize the chance of injuries whether it’s in the shoulder or any other region you train at the gym. It doesn’t require much time either as many people make it out to be. Gentle stretches before a shoulder workout help promote the movement of blood flow and nutrients towards the shoulders.
Stretching helps with flexibility and warms up the muscles and tendons which can be stiff and tight. This decreases the likelihood of any shoulder muscle strains.
Some simple shoulder warm-ups can include band pulls, light dumbbell rotations and some standing upright hand circles.
Always prioritize the correct technique of an exercise rather than adding weight with poor form. This is a common mistake gym members are guilty of. Having the correct form when performing shoulder exercises such as the military press or lateral raises can be the difference between getting injured or getting a workout done safely.
Whenever you lift heavy weights, your muscles and tendons are put under a high amount of tension. This puts extra strain on the joint which can lead to acute injuries such as dislocation or tears. Over time, performing shoulder exercises with inadequate technique can also result in tendinopathy and micro tears.
That’s why it’s crucial to start off with a warm-up and slowly move up in weight. Then perform the exercises at a controlled tempo and activate the muscles you’re actually targeting.
This is common sense but always listen to your body. Whenever you feel an uncomfortable or painful sensation in your shoulders, stop! Many gym goers try to power through minor injuries and pain. But this just makes it worse. By ignoring it and powering through, you’re putting more strain on the joint and damaging it over time.
Rest is not the enemy, it’s the hero. I know you want to grow your shoulders but take some time off the gym to let your body recover and heal. If the shoulder pain doesn’t get better, then visit your nearest health professional or personal trainer for advice.