How can I avoid pain in my shoulders when I lift weights?

Sean McMillan, DO
Orthopedic Surgery
To avoid pain in your shoulders when you lift weights, stop at 90 degrees or at shoulder height. You don’t need to force your shoulders to go up over your head to get a good workout with weights. Use a much lower weight and a higher repetition for the workout, keeping it at shoulder height. In doing so, you limit the possibility of damaging your shoulder. You're not training for bodybuilding competitions in most instances. Instead you're trying to prepare your shoulder for day-to-day activities and for fun activities. Make sure you work all the muscles in your shoulder girdle and make sure you keep it at a safe level.

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Shoulder pain can occur for many different reasons. The rotator cuff, joint capsule, labrum, or bursa may be compromised. You should first get evaluated to determine what is causing your shoulder pain, because exercises to avoid pain will vary greatly depending on the type of injury. Many people suffer from impingement syndrome which is an inflammatory response to the structures at the top of the shoulder. Often these structures are exacerbated with movements above 90 degrees or overhead. Try performing exercises no higher than shoulder height as this will prevent from further damaging in aggravating the tissue at the top of the shoulder.

Sadie Lincoln
Sadie Lincoln on behalf of barre3
Lifting weights can hurt your shoulders if the weights are too heavy or your hands are positioned too high. I teach with light hand weights, sometimes no weights at all, just resistance and lots of repetition. I keep the hands lower than the shoulders for many exercises, especially for anyone with shoulder discomfort. Keeping the hand grip gentle, or open, translates up the arm to a more relaxed shoulder. These cues help my clients keep their shoulders relaxing away from the ears.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.