Why Upper Body Pulls May be Making Your Shoulder Pain Worse


This is not going to be an exhaustive anatomy post on the shoulder. What it hopefully will be is a light bulb for you in correcting your shoulder pain.

Speaking of light bulbs, I had one go on the other day as I was training. I am very strong overhead, like most weightlifters, but my shoulder has been giving me problems as of late. To give you a little background, I played baseball for many, many years throughout my childhood and through high school. Because of this asymmetrical sport, I now have an anteriorly rotated throwing shoulder. You know, those people who walk around with their shoulders rolled forward…bad news for posture and even more for function.

Correct Corrections?

Normally we would think that just doing a bunch of “back work” like rows and anything involving scapular retraction would do the trick of fixing our shoulder pain and “re-setting” our posture. However, if you’re not doing these properly to begin with, it won’t matter one bit. Google “anterior shoulder glide” and see what pops up. This is what happens if the musculature of the back doesn’t do its job properly. Essentially the glenohumeral head doesn’t sit in the glenoid fossa the way it should as the humerus moves into flexion/extension. This is where we get a lot of problems with impingement and other issues that may cause shoulder pain. Of course, this can also happen if our back musculature is strong enough and we just plain don’t know how to retract the shoulder blades properly.

Retraction, What’s That?

Think about pinching your shoulder blades together the next time you’re doing any kind of upper-body horizontal pulling exercise. This would involve simply squeezing each shoulder blade toward the spine. Surprisingly, many people cannot get this movement down. Even I have issues with my throwing shoulder retracting at times. I would recommend that, with each repetition, you focus on retracting the shoulders before you pull with the arms. This will ultimately lead to a stronger shoulder girdle and stronger lift.

Affecting Performance

So, the reason I have shoulder pain, or why I think I do, is not from too much pressing of any kind, which is usually blamed as the culprit, but because of my shoulder gliding forward in the socket too much. As you just learned, what should happen is that the humeral head moves back with the retraction of the scapula (shoulder blades). This has certainly affected my performance, but I suppose that’s part of the game.

Hopefully you got something out of this short post. Sometimes I just don’t feel like writing a novel…and I’m sure you don’t always feel like reading one 😉

Oh, and if all else fails, listen to everything Eric Cressey has to say about the shoulder.

I’ll be writing a post shortly on some ways to improve your shoulder pain. Stay tuned!

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