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What Exercises to Avoid With Shoulder Impingement

by
author image Aubrey Bailey
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.
What Exercises to Avoid With Shoulder Impingement
Overhead sports can cause shoulder impingement. Photo Credit nd3000/iStock/Getty Images

Shoulder impingement is a common, painful condition. In fact, according to a study published in 2013 in "Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery," impingement accounts for 74 percent of painful shoulder cases. Living with this condition can be frustrating -- especially if you are an active person who enjoys exercising. Although there are certain exercises you should avoid with shoulder impingement, there are other exercises you can substitute that target the same muscles.

Read more: Exercises to Relieve Shoulder Impingement

Overhead presses should be avoided with shoulder impingement.
Overhead presses should be avoided with shoulder impingement. Photo Credit blanaru/iStock/Getty Images

Overhead Presses

Reaching overhead makes the bones in your shoulder move closer together. Shoulder impingement means that structures in your shoulder are being pinched. Overhead presses put more pressure on these pinched structures. The starting position for this exercise -- arms lifted out to the sides, elbows bent and hands rotated toward the ceiling -- is one of the worst positions for an impinged shoulder. Instead of overhead presses, try the incline bench press.

Incline Bench Press

For the incline bench press, you will need a weight bench and dumbbells.

HOW TO DO IT:

Step 1

Lie on a weight bench positioned at a 45-degree angle. Hold one dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows and start with the weights at chest-height.

Step 2

Press the weights straight out in front of you until your elbows are straight. Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly lower back to the starting position.

Step 3

Repeat 10 times, working up to three sets in a row.

Lateral raises can increase pain with shoulder impingement.
Lateral raises can increase pain with shoulder impingement. Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Lateral Raises

Lateral raises involve lifting your arms straight out to the sides until you reach shoulder height. This exercise pinches structures in the shoulder and should be avoided if you have impingement. Try bent-over shoulder raises instead.

Bent-Over Shoulder Raises

You will need a dumbbell and weight bench or other sturdy chair-height surface to perform bent-over shoulder raises.

HOW TO DO IT:

Step 1

Place one knee on the bench. Lean forward and place your hand on the bench, keeping your elbow straight.

Step 2

Hold the dumbbell in your opposite hand with your palm facing your side. From this position, slowly lift your arm out to the side until it reaches shoulder height. As your arm approaches shoulder height, rotate your arm until your thumb points toward the ceiling.

Step 3

Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly lower back down. Keep your elbow straight throughout this movement. Repeat 10 times and work up to three sets in a row.

Read more: Muscle-Strengthening Exercises for the Scapula & Shoulder

Pull downs are particularly bad for your shoulder if you bring the bar behind your neck.
Pull downs are particularly bad for your shoulder if you bring the bar behind your neck. Photo Credit Sujay_Govindaraj/iStock/Getty Images

Lat Pull Downs

Lat pull downs are a popular cable column exercise for back strengthening. However, if you have shoulder impingement, this exercise can make your pain worse -- especially if you pull the bar down behind your neck. Change your technique to perform this exercise more safely.

HOW TO DO IT:

Step 1

Straddle the bench seat while facing the cable column. With your palms facing forward, grasp the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Avoid gripping wider than this -- it will increase pressure on the structures in your shoulder.

Step 2

Lean back slightly, pull the bar to your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position.

Step 3

Repeat 10 times and work up to three sets in a row.

Shoulder rotation exercises strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.
Shoulder rotation exercises strengthen the rotator cuff muscles. Photo Credit Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock/Getty Images

Shoulder Rotation

Shoulder rotation is needed for everyday activities such as getting dressed and washing your hair, as well as sports activities such as pitching a ball or swinging a bat. Muscles that perform shoulder rotation are often strengthened with the arm lifted out to the side at shoulder height. However, this position is painful with shoulder impingement and increases pressure on already irritated structures. Shoulder rotation muscles can be effectively strengthened with an exercise band while keeping your arm by your side.

HOW TO DO IT:

Step 1

Secure one end of an elastic exercise band to a sturdy surface at waist-height. To strengthen outward rotators in your right arm, stand with your left side toward the secured end of the band. Hold the opposite end of the band in your right hand.

Step 2

Step away from the secured end of the band until the slack is taken up in the band. Bend your right elbow to 90 degrees.

Step 3

Keeping your upper arm next to your side, rotate your right forearm away from your body as far as possible. Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times, working up to three sets in a row.

Step 4

Position your right side toward the secured end of the band to exercise inward rotators in your right shoulder. Begin with your elbow bent to 90 degrees and upper arm next to your body.

Step 5

Rotate your forearm in toward your body as far as possible. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times and work up to three sets in a row.

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