You Can Build Muscle Despite Shoulder Joint Pain From Lifting Weights

You Can Build Muscle Despite Shoulder Joint Pain From Lifting Weights

Shoulder joint pain from lifting weights is among the most common injuries that you can get in the gym. Weight lifting can also be a way to help heal and strengthen your shoulder.

You can get shoulder injuries at any age, but it’s most likely to happen as you get older. You can use this as an excuse to not work out, or you can work around the joint injury and continue to build muscle!

Your Shoulder Muscles

Before you start training your shoulder muscles, you should know what those muscles are. Here’s a list of your shoulder muscles:

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

Types of Shoulder Joint Pain From Lifting Weights

There are many different types of shoulder injuries and disabilities. Here are some of the most common shoulder problems:

Adhesive Capsulitis (frozen shoulder)

Frozen shoulder is a severely restrictive condition that is you usually get from an injury. Pain from the injury can cause you to stop using your shoulder muscles. If you do use your shoulder intermittently, you may experience inflammation and cause adhesions to grow between the joint surfaces, which restricts motion. If you have this condition, you’ll also lack synovial fluid, which lubricates the gap between your arm bone and the socket that normally helps your shoulder joint move. It’s this restricted space between the capsule and the ball of the humerus that distinguishes adhesive capsulitis from the less complicated condition known as stiff shoulder.

I experienced grinding and pain in my shoulder that severely reduced my ability to move let alone exercise. I develop this shoulder joint pain from lifting weights and then sleeping in a poor position that caused the muscles to knot. Fortunately, I was able to overcome and heal myself without surgery using techniques out of The Frozen Shoulder Workbook. What ultimately worked for me was using this trigger point massager and the techniques described in The Frozen Shoulder Workbook.

Trigger Point Massager and demonstration infographic.


You can get bursitis if you also have tendonitis and impingement syndrome. These two conditions cause inflammation in your bursa sacs, which protect your shoulder.


Tendonitis is a common overuse injury. However, you can also get tendonitis if one of your tendons is pinched. You can get tendonitis in your shoulder when your rotator cuff and bicep tendon become inflamed. This usually happens if they are pinched by surrounding structures. Your injury may vary from mild inflammation to the involvement of most of your rotator cuff. When your rotator cuff tendon becomes inflamed and thickened, it may become trapped under your acromion.

Impingement Syndrome

Impingement syndrome occurs when your rotator cuff and shoulder blade excessively squeeze or rub together. The pain you feel if you have this syndrome is caused by an inflamed bursa (lubricating sac) over your rotator cuff, as well as inflammation in your rotator cuff tendons. Calcium deposits can also build up in your tendons due to wear and tear, and cause pain. It’s important to note that if you don’t get treatment for your shoulder impingement syndrome, you increase your risk of tearing your rotator cuff.

How To ELIMINATE Shoulder Pain - Shoulder Impingement Exercises

Rotator Cuff Tear

Your rotator cuff can tear if one or more of your rotator cuff tendons become inflamed from overuse, aging, a fall on an outstretched hand, or a collision.


Shoulder joints are the most frequently dislocated major joint in your body, mainly because it’s a ball and socket joint. The ball and socket joint gives you an amazing range of movement, but it also has a higher risk of dislocation. You can dislocate your shoulder if a significant force separates your shoulder joint’s ball (the top, rounded portion of your upper arm bone, or humerus) from your joint’s socket (glenoid). This can happen if you fall or experience some other strong force or impact on your shoulder.


Your shoulder can become separated when the ligaments attached to your collarbone (clavicle) are torn, or partially torn, away from your shoulder blade (scapula). This can happen if you fall or experience a sudden, forceful blow to your shoulder.


Osteoarthritis is a non-reversible degenerative disease that affects your joints. It can affect the two joints in your shoulder area – the acromioclavicular joint and the glenohumeral joint. Osteoarthritis in your shoulders can cause pain, stiffness, and other symptoms. If you have osteoarthritis, you may not have any cartilage in your shoulder joint. You might even need a complete shoulder replacement.

Working Around Your Shoulder Pain and Injuries

If you have any of these conditions, you could let it discourage you and keep you away from weight training. Or, you can find new ways to build your shoulder muscles while working around your pain and limited range of motion. You should only train your shoulder as part of your healing process, never make your injury worse by exercising it. If you have a serious injury that you are recovering from you should consult a physical therapist. Be ready for some pain though, most physical therapy is not easy or without pain.

How to Fix Shoulder Pain and Get Rid of Muscle Knots

How to get rid of muscle knots in your neck, traps, shoulders, and back

Gym Equipment to Strengthen and Build Your Shoulders (Deltoids)

Once you have improved your range of motion it is time to strengthen your shoulder to reduce the chance of future injuries.

When you go to the gym, you will find various types of equipment and brand names that will be similar to the ones mentioned in this article. Some great plate loading and cable gym equipment include Hammer Strength, Universal, Pro Fitness, Maximus, Flex, LifeFitness, Nautilus, Power Strength, Body Solid, FreemMotion, and Smith Machine. You can also use a plate and dumbbells with this workout.

Your Shoulder (Deltoid) Workout to Overcome Shoulder Joint Pain From Lifting Weights

If you can’t complete compound shoulder movements or shoulder presses, this routine is designed for you. If you can complete shoulder presses, though, you should start with those. Most of these exercises focus on isolating your shoulder muscles and working them individually. 

You should perform this shoulder workout once a week, with at least two days rest in between. Be sure to check with your doctor, though, before you start any training program. For this routine, you should do all reps to failure, which refers to the point when you can’t lift any more weight after you complete the last rep.

1. Stretch

Your shoulder muscles are more complex than other muscles, so be sure to warm up by stretching and rotating your rotator cuff. Depending on your mobility, you can try grabbing a light plate with your arm bent at a 90-degree angle and your elbow tight against your side. Hold the weight in front of your midsection, keeping your elbow tight to your side, and rotate your forearm out away from your body as far as you can, and then back. Complete 2 sets, with 15 to 20 reps for each arm.

For more exercises and stretches to warm up your shoulders check out this article.

2. Shoulder Press

3. Front Shoulder Raise

Use either a set of dumbbells or grab a plate with both hands. Start with the weight 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. Count to 3 as you are lowering the weight. If you’re using dumbbells, you can choose to alternate your arms, exercising first one and then the other. Complete 4 sets, with 10 to 12 reps each.

4. Side Lateral Raises

For this exercise, use the LifeFitness side lateral machine. It’s a great machine for lateral lifts because it allows you to rest the weight on your forearms. This helps you keep the pressure off your shoulder joint. When you use the LifeFitness machine, you’ll be doing the same movement as you would with dumbbells, but more controlled and safer. Complete 4 sets, with 12 reps each.

5. Rows For Rear Delts

Use the Hammer Strength MTS Row machine for this exercise. This equipment is very useful for developing your rear delts. Grab the handles with an underhand grip. Adjust the seat low so that when you pull the handles back, you hit your rear delts and not your back. You can get the same benefits from this machine as you can with dumbbells. However, if you use the machine, you’ll reduce the pressure on your shoulder joint. Complete 4 sets, with 10 to 12 reps each.

Best Shoulder Workout Strategy

If you have a limited range of motion and pain in your shoulder, you don’t have a lot of options for training your shoulder muscles. You can use this workout to strengthen those muscles. If you experience any pain during these exercises, stop right away and try a new strategy.

One strategy you can use is to try different pieces of equipment that sculpture your different muscle groups. Find ones that don’t cause pain or further damage to your shoulder.

You can also mix up the order the exercises in your routine. For example, you could start with side lateral raises, then do shoulder press, and then front shoulder raises. Or, you could change the weight or speed of your reps.

Because you’re working around a joint injury or disability, you need to stay completely focused while you’re weight training. If you let your mind drift or get distracted while you’re lifting, even if you’re using the safer controlled motion equipment, you can still hurt yourself.

You might still have a limited range of motion, but building up the muscles in your shoulder will help keep your joint in place. Don’t let your shoulder injury stop you from living a normal, active life.

How have you overcome a shoulder injury?

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