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  1. #1

    Please Help: Rotator Cuff Injury; Need help putting together a workout

    Hello all,

    I am in need of some advice. I have ben doing crossfit for the past year and about 2 months ago found out that I have Rotator Cuff Syndrome (according to my PT). That being said, I have since left crossfit as it most likely had everything to do with this problem. Once I was cleared for low impact exercise, I went pretty intense into the cardio world. I have had the last 2 months to really think about my goals and what I can do to achieve them. I started doing crossfit because I was out of shape. I am still not "Buff" by any stretch of the imagination but after a year of crossfit, I have definitely improved my endurance. Most importantly, the act of going to the gym has become a lifestyle that I have grown addicted to. With all of this being said, I have adjusted my goals toward body building as opposed to toning. I am trying to put together a workout that is low impact on my shoulder but still a solid workout. I have tried replacing flat bench press with floor press but it seem to really work my triceps more than my chest. I also am at a complete loss for what I can do to work my shoulders, if anything. Anyhow, any insight from anyone who has put together a program around a tweaked Rotator Cuff would really be appreciated.


  2. #2
    Senior Senior JEFIT Member John Rippon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    New Zealand
    Hi nargyrakis

    Firstly, congratulations on having the good sense to leave CrossFit

    If you're still having shoulder problems even after giving up all those silly kipping pull-ups, amrap squat cleans, thusters etc. (all of which are ideal recipes for permanently stuffing shoulders if you're genetically predisposed to shoulder issues) then ... rather than asking people on an internet forum who know nothing about you and about whom you know nothing ... I think your first port of call should really be to consult a good physio-therapist or sports doctor to get a more accurate diagnosis of what's causing the problem, just how serious the injury is and what the best options may be, going forward. Once you know a bit more about what the issue is you can then go about finding out how to best strengthen your shoulders while also protecting them from further injury. You only get two of them and they're a really useful part of the anatomy for so much of what makes up your everyday activities.

    I did the CF thing for a couple of years in its earlier days until I started having problems with my R shoulder, culminating in ripping off the supraspinatus and having to have it reattached. Eight years later I'll be competing as a Masters lifter on Friday at our National Powerlifting Champs. (Powerlifting includes the bench press - notorious for injuring shoulders.) My point in telling you all this is simply that I don't believe I'd still be able to do this if I hadn't gone to the right people to get the issue addressed and also made an effort to learn as much as I could about shoulder health and injury prevention. I suggest you do the same.

    Weight trainers often have shoulder issues because they develop strength imbalances between the muscles that make up the rotator cuff or between the rotator cuff and other larger muscles (such as deltoid, pecs). Things can also get pulled out of place if one or more muscles become abnormally shortened. These things can often be resolved by changes in choice of exercises and/or modifying form, proper stretching (timing and type are important). However you can also be genetically predisposed to issues such as impingement because of things like a smaller than normal subacromial space or a type III acromiom (shape of the bony bit on the top of your shoulder). Again you can work around these sorts of issues if you know they exist but they're not something that can be 'corrected' by exercise alone.

    Depending on what the specific problem is there will be some exercises that you should avoid altogether, some for which you may need to modify your technique and others that will actually be beneficial to your shoulder health. In my case for example: I avoid upright rows and struggle with form on overhead presses. I've had to modify my flat bench: lots and lots of bar-only warm-up reps to get my shoulders really warm, I press with my shoulders packed, a narrower-than-typical grip, with elbows tucked, etc. I include various exercises for strengthening the external rotators of the shoulder joint. I also do lots of seated cable rows (again with shoulders packed - as they should be). It's horses for courses; what works best for me may not be best for you.
    Last edited by John Rippon; 08-05-2014 at 01:21 AM. Reason: spelling

  3. #3
    Senior Senior JEFIT Member John Rippon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    New Zealand
    Bench press works anterior delts, triceps, lats and pecs. It's definitely not an isolation exercise. In addition to the adjustments that I made to my bench press technique mentioned above, many people find that decline bench is kinder to their shoulders than flat. But ultimately you'll have to find out for yourself what works best for your shoulders.

    Another thing to be aware of is that your shoulders may feel OK during your workout but you don't find out until a while after when the inflammation starts to kick in that they didn't really like it.

  4. #4
    Thanks for all the input John. I have been seeing a chiropractor that has worked with a lot of guys out of Crossfit. I'm starting to think that Crossfit has been an outstanding source of new patients for therapists and chiropractors. I am sure a chiropractor is not the best option but he has actually done wonders for getting my shoulder feeling better. After reviewing xrays and MRI's it has been a lot of Graston and Active Relief Treatment.

    I also appreciate the input on Crossfit itself because, to be honest, I miss it. Not so much the WOD's but the environment. Going from Crossfit to a large neighborhood gym has actually made working out a bit, well, lonely. If Crossift gets anything right it is the community spirit. Anyhow, like I said, I miss it but I would probably miss my shoulder more and if I go back I am pretty sure I will eventually damage it far more than I have already. All in all, I want to keep the momentum I have achieved over the last year without any body parts falling off.

  5. #5

    I am in the (sort off) same situation as Nargyrakis.
    I am in the middle of a diagnosis, waiting for monday for MR-scan., but belive its the same problem i got.

    Soo, i am going to ask, if somebody got a "routine" good for starting out, with bad shoulder.
    -Joining this thread, not hi-jacking it


    BTW: Sry. for bad writing

  6. #6
    Plenty of stuff on the internet about rotator cuff injuries and rehab, so do a search. Standard exercises are internal and external rotations - search for rotation in the app under shoulder, it will list these done with cable, and an external done with dumbbell (the internal dumbbell ex is missing). Also front raises. When doing bench press, try an reverse hand grip - palms towards the head, you can't use as much weight but it's said to be kinder to the shoulder. When working over head, try to keep the weight at least midline to the body and not let it go past it, ie to the back of the head, so stay away from press behind the neck, or lat pull downs behind the neck - for general shoulder health not specifically rotator cuff.

    Have a look at

    Rehab can be lengthy and surgery is often needed and a good Physio is a very good idea because the shoulder has many muscles connecting to it one place or another and injury in one muscle leads to reduced function that very often leads to an imbalance in the joint as some muscles waste through reduced use.

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