What Exercises to Avoid With Shoulder Impingement

Beautiful female tennis player serving outdoor
Overhead sports can cause shoulder impingement. (Image: 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.

Step by step instructions:  Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells, palms facing away from you. Curl the weights to shoulder height. (B) then rotate your hands so that your palms face forward and press the dumbbells toward the ceiling until your arms are extended directly overhead. (A)
Overhead presses should be avoided with shoulder impingement. (Image: 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.

Young Man Preforming Dumbbell Lateral Raise - Exercise For Shoulders
Lateral raises can increase pain with shoulder impingement. (Image: 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.

Young lady works out for upper or lower back with a lateral pull down machine in a gym.
Pull downs are particularly bad for your shoulder if you bring the bar behind your neck. (Image: 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.

Portrait of strong young man exercising with kettlebell.  Fit and muscular man training at park in morning.
Shoulder rotation exercises strengthen the rotator cuff muscles. (Image: 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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