I started weight lifting training again after a pause of 5 years. I started really slowly, always did a good warm up (10 min cardio + first sets with reduced weight). After two months of training I now had shoulder pain after the push day (bench press, dips). It gets better after two days.

I did some research and found out that I probably have to train my shoulder rotators separately.

Now my questions:

  • Should I completely pause my training for some time? Or could I do exercises that do not stress the shoulders that much like pull-ups (if the pain is gone of course).

  • Should I start the rotator training immediately with very light weights? Or should I wait until the pain is completely gone?

4 Answers 4


How you should react totally depends on what your specific medical diagnosis is, which we can't speak to. However in a (perhaps?) similar situation, what worked was a drastic temporary reduction in shoulder lifting volume and a less-drastic reduction in overall training volume. This gave my shoulder time to de-inflame so I could gradually work back up.

Reducing the volume and working rotator cuff exercises prolonged the issue, since my rotator cuff was plenty strong. The problem was less-than-optimal mobility of the shoulder joint plus an inflamed shoulder.

Exercises that didn't hurt, like pull-ups, were fine. However, in my case, it was important not to replace the problematic exercises with an equal or greater amount of substitute work. Part of what helped heal was just doing less for a little while.


If it hurts, don't do it. Here's document on treating your rotator cuffs http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2484936/

But again, if it hurts you, don't do it. Benching with a barbell and dips commonly hurt people's shoulders.

If you don't need to do those lifts, switch to exercises that don't hurt. Dumbbell benches, presses, etc. are more often pain free movements for people.


I've been lifting for several years and my shoulders always feel great. My answer is anecdotal, but my habits are based on listening to smart coaches.

  • I do a 1:1 mix of standing overhead press and bench presses. My primary pushing movement is the overhead press, and I don't let my bench get out-of-control strong without training my shoulders.
  • Everything is compound. I haven't touched a machine in over six years.
  • No isolation work.

I can dip with weights on a belt, do ring dips, and ring muscle ups.

Training the tiny rotator cuff muscles in in the realm of physical therapy. The bigger picture (to me) is having a balanced training program that ensures your shoulder gets strong in the right way. Natural compound movements (like the standing overhead press) work the shoulder through a normal range of motion and promote balanced muscle and connective tissue growth.

Should I completely pause my training for some time? Or could I do exercises that do not stress the shoulders that much like pull-ups (if the pain is gone of course).

It's a good time to take up running. Shoulders, elbows, and knees: when they hurt, you need to hit the pause button until you go from the ouch-pain to the sore-pain.


Find angles and exercises that don't cause the pain to recreate itself. Experiment with different exercises. If it hurts, don't do it. Ice your shoulder down post workout to avoid any flare ups.

Along with your rotator cuff exercises, I would start with a thorough warm up. Begin doing shoulder dislocations against a wall, band pull a parts to retract your shoulder blades and spend a lot of time stretching out your pectorals. When the chest gets tight it causes your shoulders to roll forward (internal rotation) putting excess stress on the anterior deltoids.

Once you get back to health, continue to balance out your overhead pressing with your bench pressing at a 1:1 ratio. Make a point of spending more time on the muscles you can't see (back in your case) and less on the ones that you can. I always perform pulling exercises at a 2:1 ratio vs. my pushing exercises. Hope that helps.


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