How to Train Shoulders with a Shoulder Injury

The general strategy I see most individuals take when they experience shoulder pain, or a true acute shoulder injury is to ignore all pressing movements for awhile and hope the pain subsides.

Sometimes this works…sometimes it doesn’t. In the cases where it doesn’t, this can leave athletes feeling stuck like they’ll never be able to properly train their shoulders again.

I’m going to suggest a different strategy. One that’ll keep you training, minimize the pain you experience, and potentially even speed up your recovery process.

1. Try Every Plane of Motion

The most typical shoulder pain you’ll see with athletes is they experience pain trying to press anything overhead with a pronated grip.

The solution? Try pressing at a different angle.

Find yourself an incline bench and some light dumbbells. Start at the highest setting available, and slowly lower the bench down until you find a position you can press from without experiencing shoulder pain. You may find you have to lower all the way until the bench is flat for this to happen…that’s okay.

Are you training some chest now in addition to your shoulders? Yes. Are you training your shoulders more than you would be otherwise? Also yes. Some training is always going to be better than no training.

2. Neutral Grip Everything

Neutral grip tends to be the saving grace for all things shoulder pain related.

Neutral grips usually require less abduction of the shoulders for most movements, which equates to less stretch on your shoulders, which usually equates to less pain experienced for an athlete.

Use for everything. Neutral grip overhead press, neutral grip bench press, neutral grip push-ups. If you’re experiencing shoulder pain you owe it yourself to give neutral grip a shot.

3. Bands, Bands, Bands

While Mark Bell’s slingshot is typically equated with helping make your bench press feel like you’re pressing on the moon, the original idea was to help individuals with shoulder pain.

As the slingshot stretches throughout the range of motion it provides more and more assistance. This means at the bottom of the bench press where you will tend to feel the most shoulder pressure, the slingshot will be providing the most assistance making pressing bearable.

You can provide this same slingshot principle to most pressing motions with bands. Need to overhead press? Setup reverse bands. Want to do some dips? Make yourself a band trampoline.

Bands can provide just enough assistance that they make pressing bearable again for many athletes.

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.