First let’s talk about what a shoulder impingement is before we get into my favorite shoulder impingement exercises. A shoulder impingement is a major cause of shoulder pain for a lot of athletes. It happens when your tendons and muscles in your rotator cuff get inflamed due to repeated strenuous activities such as heavy lifting, sports and manual labor.
Repeated exposure to heavy lifting (like lifting weights for 15 years) can cause some breakdown or calcification of the tendons making everyday life and any type of workout routine downright painful. The good news is that it’s treatable, but the bad news is that it’s not treatable overnight.
If you are one of the many unlucky weight lifters like myself to suffer through this type of shoulder injury, then you know exactly how horribly it can affect your training. I was unlucky enough to be diagnosed with a shoulder impingement not too long ago. The good news is that it wasn’t a rotator cuff tear. The bad news is that that shoulder impingement syndrome can be pretty dehabilitating if not treated appropriately. You should always see your doctor first to rule out any type of rotator cuff tear or any other type of tissue or bone damage. Once diagnosed with a shoulder impingement, it’s important to start back at a normal training routine but do so at a very light pace. It took me somewhere around 4 months to get back to lifting heavy again on my compound exercises. I could still get a great workout, I just had to focus on higher repetitions while going very light on the weight. This is kind of the opposite of what I’ve preached in my other strength training workouts with going heavy on your sets, but when you are injured, you make do with what you have. The good news about these exercises is that they can be used to not only naturally treat shoulder impingement syndrome, but they can be used to help prevent it as well. Now on to my favorite exercises that helped me get through my injury:
Lateral Raises are great to strengthen your rotator cuff. The key here is to go VERY light weight. I started off only using 5 pound weights when I was first diagnosed to help me get a better range of motion. Once I started these and I felt a little more comfortable, I was slowly able to increase weight. See below for a quick video breakdown on how to properly do a lateral raise.
Cable External Rotations:
External rotations are great. If you have access to an actual gym, start with cables or low weight resistance bands. This will be a very good way to help test yourself early on without pushing yourself into heavier dumbbells. See below for a quick example video on how to perform cable external rotations.
Lying Down External Rotations:
This is the lying down variety of external rotations. This is probably one of the less riskier exercises you can do when battling shoulder impingement syndrome. Make sure you are lying down and perform this exercise with a lower weight dumbbell. Brief video on how to execute this exercise is below.
Dumbbell Seated External Rotations:
Seeing a pattern here? Very few exercises are better for strengthening your rotator cuff than some form of rotation. Seated rotations are great as they force you to utilize other areas of your shoulder and your upper body to keep the dumbbells straight. See below for another brief video demonstration.
Front Dumbbell Rotations:
I usually like to push myself to use these quickly in between my seated or lying down external rotations. It’s a good workout and focuses on strengthening the front part of your rotator cuff muscles. You can see a more detailed breakdown in the video below.
Your turn to recover!
Now that you’ve read up on my favorite shoulder impingement exercises, it’s up to you to get out there and put yourself to work. Don’t overdo it and make sure you pace yourself. There’s nothing worse than a sports injury except making that sports injury even worse by pushing yourself to go to hard, too fast. Stick to light weights and listen to your body. When your body is finally comfortable with the exercises, then start moving up in weight and slowly test yourself. You should always consult a physician when you have any type of sports injury prior to jumping back into any type of workout routine. If you utilize these exercises though, there’s a good chance you can stay off the cortisone habit and push yourself to a natural recovery. As always, a great nutrition and supplementation plan will play a key role in getting you back on your feet in no time.