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The 5 Best Exercises For Shoulder Health In CrossFit

crossfit dr. danny mobility shoulder Dec 03, 2015

So you’ve been killing it at the gym over the past month. Your body is starting to adapt and your conditioning is improving. You can do twice the amount of rounds of Cindy that you could do when you first started CrossFit. All in all, you’re the man now!

Until, one day you try and do some ring dips. Next thing you know, you wake up the next morning and the front of your shoulder hurts. This is the first minor set back you’ve had since starting CrossFit so you ignore it and continue to do the gym programmed workout for the next week. Your shoulder pain starts to get worse. You finally say something to your coach and they recommend some mobility techniques they saw Kelly Starrett talk about on Youtube. Another week goes by and the shoulder pain continues to get worse. You’re frustrated and finally your coach recommends that you come to see someone like me and get it checked out.

By this point you’ve been inflaming your bicep tendon for a couple weeks. In all likeliness, there’s nothing wrong with your bicep tendon and it’s simply getting caught in the crossfire (now the video at the top of this blog should make sense) of scapular stability weakness and tightness in the front of your shoulder.

You’re not the only one. In fact, recently injury rates in CrossFit were studied (see reference below). The results showed that the most common injury was the shoulder; approximately 25% of all reported injuries were related to the shoulder. In my own practice I have found this to be the case as well, if not even a higher percentage. Just this week I have seen 8 new patients and 5 of them came to me for shoulder pain

Keeping shoulders healthy while training in CrossFit can be challenging for a couple reasons:

  • First, CrossFit is an overhead sport. A significant amount of movements in CrossFit involve pressing overhead or pulling from an arms overhead position.
  • Second, the shoulder is complex. You have to take into account deficiencies at the neck, thoracic spine, glenohumeral joint, breathing, scapular control/mobility, rotator strength/endurance, motor control of the techniques(i.e are you just doing a pull up wrong) and postural positioning.
  • Third, many of us have no background in gymnastics or olympic weightlifting. Both of these sports are heavily dominant on the shoulders. Sorry but your 15 years of baseball will not help you in CrossFit.

So what’s the solution? The best answer would be to get yourself checked out before starting some significant training to see if you have any obvious deficiencies. That’s like telling people to go to the dentist so they don’t get a cavity. I understand that many people don’t see the value in prevention so I won’t try and persuade you on that.

The next best option is to try and go after the low hanging fruit first. In my practice I’ve found that common deficiencies can be cleaned up with as few as 5 exercises. Below are videos of exercises you can do on your own to resolve and/or stop an injury from happening. Make these part of your gym routine and your shoulders will thank you.

What’s the best way to fix a shoulder injury? Not getting a shoulder injury to begin with! 

If you’re in the Atlanta area and have been dealing with a CrossFit related shoulder injury for a while give us a call. We can help you get back to what you love to do faster than any medical group in the area. Don’t take our word for it, check out what everyone else has to say in their testimonials.

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-Dr. Danny, PT, DPT

Hak, P.T., et al. "The nature and prevalence of injury during CrossFit training."






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