After pushups I experience a dull pain and soreness in my back muscles behind my right shoulder. I believe its in the rhomboids. The dull pain varies in magnitude and is never completely debilitating. However sometimes it lasts for a day or two. Often the next time I do pushups I experience the same.

Has anyone experienced this or has any idea what I could be doing wrong? A few months ago I used to do 2 sets of 20 pushups but on someones advice, in order to alleviate this, I now do 3 sets of 12. Initially for a few weeks this back soreness seemed to have gone; but then reappeared.

Is there some warmup or stretching that I can do specifically?

  • Depending on what you mean by, "behind" it could be your Rhomboids or Levator Sacpulae.
    – BryceH
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 4:49
  • Thanks for the specific question: Its in the rhomboids I believe
    – Hsolo
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 10:24

3 Answers 3


You mention that you do push ups, but do you do any pull-ups or inverse rows?

Typically, it's not uncommon to have Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) due to changing the intensity (weight) or volume (sets * reps). At first glance it sounded like this may be your problem. The DOMS can be quite intense and last for a few days if you really worked things harder than usual.

Your back muscles are involved in push ups, but not to the degree that a proper back exercise uses them. As a result, you might be hitting the rhomboids to a greater degree than the surrounding back muscles so they aren't actively helping out in the process. The way to even things out is to introduce a back exercise.

  • Pull ups/Chin ups--one of the gold standard body weight exercises. They hit your lats, traps, biceps, core, etc. Problem is that they are very difficult to do for many people. If you can do at least one, you can quickly add more.
  • Inverse Rows--a very accessible and useful back exercise. They are like the opposite of a push up. Your body is straight, just like a pushup, but you are lying on your back and pull yourself up to a bar or table. They'll hit many of the same muscles as the pull ups, but from a different angle. Even if you can't do a single pull up, most people will be able to do this. You can put your feet on a chair to make it more difficult if necessary. Use the same volume as you use on push ups.

Whenever you work one set of muscles, you need to also work the antagonist (opposite) muscles to help your body remain in balance. Failure to do that results in lingering aches and pains, joint inflammation, or muscle spasms. Since you talked about body weight exercise, I provided a couple options that should help that were also body weight exercises.

  • I absolutely agree. Remember never to underestimate a proper warm-up as well!
    – anaheim
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 13:53

It may be a little late now, but I think the pain is in your rotator cuff, which can lead to injuries. I had the same pain, exactly as you mentioned but an easy fix will prevent/stop this pain.

Keep your elbows tucked as close to your body as possible while doing a press up. Think of pushing through your armpit as you push up, making sure your elbows don't stick out.

Hope this helps :)


Could be a bulged disc in your upper spine irritating a nerve that runs through your back. Some activities like lifting can compress the discs further and aggravate the situation. This can cause painful muscle guarding and stiffnes in an effort to protect the area.

  • 1
    Be careful about dispensing what seems like speculative medical advice sight-unseen over the internet.
    – G__
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 2:43

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