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Building Muscle Dispite Shoulder Pain and Shoulder Injuries E-mail
Written by Lynn Glenn   

Shoulder and joint injuries are among the most common injuries that can happen while lifting weights and building muscle. Shoulder injuries while building muscle can occur at any age, but most likely to happen as we get older. We can let this give us an excuse not workout or we can work around the joint injury and continue to build muscle!

Types of Shoulder Injuries

There are different types of shoulder injuries and disabilities. Common shoulder problems include the following:
  • Adhesive Capsulitis (frozen shoulder). Frozen shoulder is a severely restrictive condition frequently caused by injury that, in turn, leads to lack of use due to pain. Intermittent periods of use may cause inflammation and adhesions to grow between the joint surfaces, thus restricting motion. There is also a lack of synovial fluid to lubricate the gap between the arm bone and socket that normally helps the shoulder joint to move. This restricted space between the capsule and ball of the humerus distinguishes adhesive capsulitis from the less complicated condition known as stiff shoulder.
  • Bursitis. Bursitis often occurs when tendonitis and impingement syndrome cause inflammation of the bursa sacs that protect the shoulder.
  • Tendonitis. Tendonitis is a common overuse injury, however it can also be caused when a tendon is pinched. Tendonitis of the shoulder is caused when the rotator cuff and/or biceps tendon become inflamed, usually as a result of being pinched by surrounding structures. The injury may vary from mild inflammation to involvement of most of the rotator cuff. When the rotator cuff tendon becomes inflamed and thickened, it may become trapped under the acromion.
  • Impingement Syndrome. Impingement syndrome is caused by the excessive squeezing or rubbing of the rotator cuff and shoulder blade. The pain associated with the syndrome is a result of an inflamed bursa (lubricating sac) over the rotator cuff, and/or inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons. The pain can also be caused by calcium deposits in tendons due to wear and tear. It is important to note that unttreated shoulder impingement syndrome can lead to a torn rotator cuff.
  • Rotator Cuff Tear.  A rotator cuff tear involves one or more rotator cuff tendons becoming inflamed from overuse, aging, a fall on an outstretched hand, or a collision.
  • Dislocation. The shoulder joint is the most frequently dislocated major joint of the body, mainly because it is s ball and socket joint. The ball and socket joint gives us amazing range of movement, but one of the drawrbacks of this range of movement is the risk for dislocation. Dislocation is often caused when a significant force separates the shoulder joint's ball (the top rounded portion of the upper arm bone, or humerus) away from the joint's socket (glenoid). This can happen from force impact, a fall, etc.
  • Separation. The shoulder becomes separated when the ligaments attached to the collarbone (clavicle) are torn, or partially torn, away from the shoulder blade (scapula). Shoulder separation may be caused by a sudden, forceful blow to the shoulder, or as a result of a fall.
  • Separation. The shoulder becomes separated when the ligaments attached to the collarbone (clavicle) are torn, or partially torn, away from the shoulder blade (scapula). Shoulder separation may be caused by a sudden, forceful blow to the shoulder, or as a result of a fall.
  • Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a non reversible degenerative disease that affects the jshoulder acromioclavicular  arthrosisoints. Osteoarthritis of the shoulder can affect the two joints in the shoulder area - the acromioclavicular joint and the glenohumeral joint. Osteoarthritis in the shoulders can cause pain, stiffness, and other symptoms. I happen to have osteoarthritis. Someday I will need a complete shoulder replacement. With my specific case of osteoarthritis, I do not have any cartilage left in my shoulder joint. I could have let this discourage me by keeping me away from weight training but I did not. I had to find new ways to build shoulder muscles while working around my limited range of motion and pain.

Working Around Shoulder Pain and Injuries

shoulder anatomyWhen someone finds out that I have a shoulder injury they ask me about my workout routine for developing my shoulders. I decided to write this article, knowing there are many people who have shoulder problems and still want to workout.

If you are unable, like me, to complete compound shoulder movements or shoulder presses, the following routine is design for you.  If you can complete shoulder presses, then do so by starting first with the shoulder press. This article will be mostly focusing on isolating the shoulder muscle groups by working them individually. I suggest checking with your doctor, as I did, before starting any training program.

Shoulder Muscles

  • Anterior (front) Deltoids
  • Medial (side) Deltoids
  • Posterior (rear) Deltoids
  • Rhomboid (upper center back)
  • Trapezius (neck, top back)

Gym Equipment to Strengthen and Build the Shoulders/Deltoids

Gyms have various types of equipment and brand names that will be similar to the ones that I will be mentioning. Hammer Strength, Universal, Pro Fitness, Maximus, Flex, LifeFitness, Nautilus, Power Strength, Body Solid, FreemMotion, Smith Machine, are some good examples of plate loading and cable gym equipment. We will also be using a plate and dumbbells with this workout.

The Shoulder/Deltoid Workout

Shoulder workout to be perform once a week with a minimum two days rest after a back or chest workout. Reps mentioned here after are to failure. This means that you cannot lift any more weight after completing the last rep. Shoulder muscles are more complex than others so be sure to warm up with stretching and  by rotating you rotator cuff. Depending on your mobility, you can do the following: grab a light plate with your arm bent at a 90 degree angle and your elbow tight against your side. Bring the weight from your mid section, keeping your elbow tight to your side, and rotate your forearm out away from your body as far as you are able then back. Complete 2 sets, 15 to 20 reps for each arm.

1st exercise, (optional depending on your flexibility), find a Hammer Strength shoulder press machine, it is a good safe piece of equipment. On each side the arm is independently weighted. You are unable to over compensate with one arm for the other and it allows muscle to grow at the same rate. For a shoulder press variation you can use the Smith Machine. Complete 3 sets with 10 to 12 reps each.

2nd exercise, Front shoulder raise. Use either a set of dumbbells or grab a plate with both hands. Start with the weight down in front of your thighs but not resting on them. With your elbows slightly bent raise the weight up to your eye level and back down again with a 3 second count on the decent. If you are using dumbbells, you have the choice of alternating your arms with one and then the other. Complete 4 sets, with 10 to 12 reps each.

3rd exercise, side lateral raises.  Use the LifeFitness side lateral machine, this equipment is great for lateral lifts. It allows you to have the weight resting on your forearms which allows you to keep the pressure off your shoulder joint. This piece of equipment you have same movement as you would with dumbbells but with a more controlled and safer form of movement. Complete 4 sets, 12 reps each.

4th exercise, rear delts, Use the Hammer Strength MTS Row machine. I found this equipment very useful in developing my rear delts. Grab the handles with an underhand grip. Adjust the seat low so when pulling the handles back you are hitting the rear delts and not your back. I receive the same benefit from this machine as if I were to use dumbbells but without the pressure on my shoulder joint. Complete 4 sets with 10 to 12 reps each.

Shoulder Workout Strategy

Because of limited range of motion and/or pain, there are few options left open to us in being able to train our shoulder muscles.

One suggestion is to try various pieces of equipment working each muscle group without creating pain, discomfort and causing more damage to your shoulder.

Another suggestion is to mix up the order of rotation, weight or speed of your reps.  Example of this is by starting with exercise 4 then 2 and then 3 or with reps between 12 and 15.

Last but not least, to prevent further injury, stay focused! Because you are working around a joint injury or disability, you want to stay completely focus while weight training. If you let your mind drift or get distracted, even with the safer controlled motion equipment, you can still hurt yourself while lifting.

Bottom Line Prognosis

I live and have a very active lifestyle. The muscles that I have developed around my shoulder joint I can still have that lifestyle. With having osteoarthritis, I still live a normal life with just having some shoulder movement limitations. Most people do not even notice my limitations. With the shoulder muscles that I have developed, I believe it helps to keep my shoulder joint in place, right where it belongs.

This is the best part, I not only worked around my osteoarthritis, when I am at the gym my shoulders will rival others, especially those who are my age!

About the Author

Lynn GlennLynn Glenn is a 61 year old natural athlete who started training at the ripe young age of 48. Lynn lives in Southern California, and serves as a tremendous inspiration for many "mature" weightlifters in the gym that are trying to look better, feel better, and beat the crap out of father time. To contact Lynn, visit Lynn at




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