Strength Training for Those Who Have Had Rotator Cuff Injuries and Back Problems

The overhead press can be a very productive exercise. Like any exercise, if it performed with improper form or to excess injuries may result. For those who have shoulder or back problems it might be best to avoid this exercise altogether.

To perform the overhead press with a barbell the bar has to pass in front of your face. It has to pass sufficiently close to your face in order to keep your center of gravity directly above your feet; otherwise you will fall forward. To keep your center of gravity above your feet it is necessary to arch your back. It also requires you to move your arms through a range of motion that could potentially cause a rotator cuff injury. In the finished locked out position the back is arched and exposed to vertebral compression from the weight baring down over head.

For those who have experienced shoulder and back injuries there is an alternative. One could use exercise equipment designed to support the back, and one that requires a motion that is more easily tolerated by the shoulders. At Austin  Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Trainers  we use MedX rehabilitative exercise equipment. The equipment is designed to follow the natural arching movements of the body.

The subject below has back support and in the finished or locked out position the weight will be out in front of him and not directly overhead thus eliminating significant vertebral compression. The arms move in front of him in a natural arching motion and the machine movement arm follows the same path. The end result is an exercise that has the desired affect of putting more stress on the muscles around the shoulder, and it is far less stressful to the rotator cuff and the back.

This subject had had two rotator cuff surgeries by age 24 – one on each shoulder. The countless hours in the gym had taken their toll on his shoulders. He cannot lift weights overhead in the conventional manner without causing pain to his shoulder. Using the MedX overhead press he is able to workout with significant weight – 316 pounds – with no aggravation to his shoulders. His training regime consists of one full body workout a week. He reports that he is stronger now than when he was spending hours in the gym, and his shoulders are pain-free.

For those who have had injuries they often do little or no exercise. This creates weakness and a greater likelihood of re-injury and chronic pain. It is important to remain strong to avoid re-injury. The catch 22 is that the exercise necessary to increase strength might also cause injury. The equipment we use more effectively stresses the muscles and is more easily tolerated by the joints thereby lessening the change for injury. We have worked with many who have had shoulder problems. After a few months they forget they even had a problem. Their range of motion increases, their strength increases, and most importantly, they acquire a measure of protection from additional injury that they did not have before.