How to Avoid Shoulder Pain In the Gym

Shoulder pain in the gym

How to avoid shoulder pain in the gym this January, if you are a regular lifter in the gym and are experiencing shoulder pain, you may be struggling through it or have had to stop lifting in the gym completely.

This article can help you if any of the following relate to you:

  • You have shoulder pain WHEN working out.
  • You have shoulder pain AFTER a gym session.
  • You got some treatment or pain killers and it hasn’t resolved.
  • You are worried you won’t find a solution to your shoulder pain.

At ReSync Physiotherapy we have vast experience in dealing with shoulder pain and rehab from office workers to gym junkies and high level athletes.


The shoulder is essentially a number of joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons that allow a wide range of motion in the arm from scratching your back to lifting the kettle..

Shoulder pain occurs when one or all of these structures becomes compromised due to poor posture, a lack of stability and strength around the shoulder as well as poor mobility.

The shoulder is designed to be stable AND mobile. Any deficit in these two qualities may lead you to having shoulder pain either all of the time or only when you move your shoulder.

Of course we all want to be very mobile but sometimes too much mobility has a price as it can lead to instability or impingement of the bony structures and soft tissues , resulting in pain. We also don’t want our shoulders to have poor mobility as that can lead to overload and pain in the muscles and tendons around the shoulder joint especially if we are lifting weights regularly.

Check out this informative video on SHOULDER PAIN with weightlifting.

  • A dull ache at the front or side of the shoulder.
  • A sharp pain or tenderness when you lift up or rotate your arm.
  • Pain when you move your arm across your body.
  • Pain after weightlifting or exercising.
  • Swelling around your shoulder.
  • Weakness and stiffness in your shoulder area.

The shoulder is designed to be stable AND mobile. Any deficit in these two qualities may lead you to having shoulder pain

When we experience pain with exercise our body is giving us a message.

With weight lifting all of the upper body movements involve the shoulder so if we train too much or too frequently then our body is giving us a message to hold back or correct what we are currently doing training wise. A good training plan is the best plan of action. If you have been resting your shoulder and your pain is still present then you should get it assessed by an experienced physio.

We see people with shoulder pain every day in the clinic – contact us to see how we can help.


  • A BICEP TENDON STRAIN (tendinopathy) feels like a dull ache in the shoulder. This is most likely an inflamed biceps tendon causing the pain due to the tendon getting overloaded from too many arm curls in the gym or overhead pressing.
  • ROTATOR CUFF pain is a tear or inflammation of the rotator cuff tendon which can be painful when rotating or lifting the arm overhead. A common cause of this injury is incorrect form when lifting in the gym or going too heavy too soon and not gradually progressing your resistance exercises.
  • LIGAMENT SPRAINS are caused by overstretching the shoulder or partially tearing a ligament around the shoulder joint.
  • AC JOINT AND LABRUM TEAR  injuries often present in the physio clinic but mostly have gone untreated for a long time so many people may need a longer recovery plan to resolve these injuries.
  • NECK PAIN ; very often shoulder pain presents that is actually an issue with the neck referring to pain to the shoulder and down the arm. This may feel like a sharp pain in the shoulder or pins and needles down the arm when you move your neck or shoulder. Read more on NECK PAIN here.


  • The most common reason for your shoulder to be sore during or after your gym session is INCORRECT WEIGHTLIFTING. Weightlifting places a huge amount of stress on the shoulder joint, which is the least stable joint in the body due to its flexibility.

You may have sustained micro-injuries to the shoulder over time that have now accumulated to a pain that is very uncomfortable and affects you in the gym.. To build the required amount of strength in the gym we should focus on a program that incorporates mobility, strength and stability. If any of these are lacking we could run into trouble.

  • REPETITIVE SHOULDER MOVEMENTS like swimming, boxing , push ups and pull ups. Even if you are not a weightlifter, repetitive movements can also hurt your shoulder. All of the above can take a toll on the shoulder if done too quickly or too intensely. The key here is a good plan for your weekly activities.

  • LACK OF A PROPER PROGRAM – Here at the clinic we often find that the number one problem with people dealing with shoulder pain during or after gym sessions is that their weightlifting program is sub- standard. What we mean by that is people often present with a generic program that was obtained online or a very basic program that was given to them by their trainer. The problem here is that it is not specific to your needs and abilities. The question here is are you training for strength alone, for muscle building, for mobility and joint health or should you actually need a specific rehab plan that addresses your lack of those qualities?

It all sounds a bit complex but for us this is what we program for people every week. If you are plowing through your routine with pain and it’s getting no better our best advice is to go get a Physiotherapist to assess it and lay out a plan of action to resolve your pain while building back up your strength to return to the gym pain free. 


  • Take a detailed assessment of your movements, injury history, shoulder patterning and current program.
  • Assess your mobility and strength levels or any other deficits.
  • Treat your pain with hands on treatment, electrotherapy along with detailed rehab protocols.
  • Address any contributing biomechanical issues or compensations.
  • Provide you with a rehabilitation and reconditioning plan for your shoulder to get you confidently back in the gym.


When we look at shoulder pain the key things we need to keep in mind are what has caused your shoulder pain to become a problem.

The shoulder is a complex area when we look at the anatomy so a specific diagnosis of what’s causing your pain is key.

Has it developed due to a deficit in your mobility or stability around the joint.

Has it become overloaded due to lifting poorly or simply a lack of strength and you went to lift weights you weren’t quite able for yet?

Is your training plan adequate for you and your current level of ability. Is it specifically targeted towards your goals ?

Thanks for reading.

Conor Tierney

Want to book an appointment with Conor Click here

Are you struggling to get better at pull ups Check out this video below

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