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5 things you need to know about your shoulder injury

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If you are engaged in any strenuous fitness activity, you are exposed to the inescapable risk of at least some kind of minor injury. It’s just a truth around being a human being. We move, we lift, we play, we can overuse, cause trauma, and injure ourselves. This does not make CrossFit bad, or working out in general, bad. It just means that exercise programming needs to be intelligent on the coach’s end, and the intensity/modification on your end needs to be smart! The shoulders are one of the most common injuries we see in both fitness and life in general. Let’s take a look at 5 things you should know about your shoulder injury, and injuries in general!


  1. Reflect on what led to the injury.

“Do not put fitness on dysfunction” ~ Gray Cook. What does this mean? It means that if you have pain, or a compromised range of motion, you should avoid trying to create a fitness stimulus on that area of your body. Do you have trouble getting your arms overhead? Did you then do a million reps of shoddy push presses? That is a quick and dirty example of putting fitness on dysfunction. If you cannot reach overhead with a tight core and straight arms… it probably isn’t going to go so well when you add load to this already sketchy position. A lot of times- we ignore our limitations and go overhead anyway. So- think back to whether you have/had full range of motion in the shoulder joint- and then consider what loads you added to that position. It might provide you with some insight going forward with what movements might require avoiding.

  1. Strong before dynamic.

We are always preaching about this rule on the gym floor and within our programming…but sometimes it still gets ignored. Here’s the deal: Your joints absolutely require STRENGTH before moving towards more dynamic and complex movements. The example we LOVE to use is the kipping pull up… or any kip really. Consider what range of motion the kipping pull takes you through: Very quick and powerful hyper extensive shoulder flexion (arms going above and behind your head). Not only that… but you are actively pushing back and away from the pull up bar INTO this position… quickly. The point? This is a DYNAMIC movement that puts major, major stress on the shoulder. Many folks will practice and implement the kipping pull up before gaining strength in a strict range of motion. This can lead to serious injury. The rule? Work towards performing a strict pull up. Then, work towards doing 3 strict pull ups in a row. Then, work toward performing a weighted pull up with 20-30% of your body weight… THEN- start your kipping journey!

  1. Be patient.

I have seen the cycle before, and within my own training as well. You get injured, or something hurts. You stay off of it for awhile. The pain goes away, or lessens, then you go back to the same movements because you are “in the clear”. This is a mistake. The injury will inevitably come back.  Just because the pain has disappeared, does NOT mean the dysfunction is gone. You must EASE back into movements that previously exposed symptoms. Consider this rule of thumb for when the right time is to ease back in. Wait until the pain is completely gone. How long did that take? Six months? Once the pain is gone…rest it for another 3 months. So- rest for 50% amount the time it took for the pain to go away… THEN begin to ease back in. Injuries can take a long, long, long time to heal. The more patient you are, the less chance there is for additional injury.

  1. The biggest indicator for injury…is previous injury.

The easiest way to predict where you will be injured, is where you have been injured before. This is where personal insight and wisdom of one’s own body can be highly valuable. Staying on TOP of the injury before it reoccurs must be a main priority. One of the biggest reasons people re-injure themselves is because: “out of sight, out of mind”! Once it stops hurting… you stop taking care of it. Take great care to mobilize and grease the joint in question. Additionally, make sure inflammation is managed with natural omega 3’s and other steps of self-care.

  1. Be skeptical of what coaches and “doctors” tell you to do with your shoulders.

Everyone has an opinion, and most people’s opinions are wrong… especially concerning how to treat shoulder dysfunction. If you have an injured shoulder, most coaches and PT’s and chiropractors will tell you to do shoulder exercises like dumbbell shoulder external rotations, and possibly stretches. The problem is…if you can externally rotate a 10 lb dumbbell… you probably don’t need to waste your time doing those. In fact- it could even make things worse by overcrowding the muscles in the rotator cuff and create more impingement. When it comes to the delicate shoulder joint- you have close to no idea what needs to be stretched, or strengthened… additionally, you might not know what structures you are even dealing with when you are doing these stretches or exercises. Your best bet is to stay off the injured body part, and work on stability within the joint. This is much less risky and probably more beneficial based on the isometric nature of stability training.

The moral of the injured shoulder story is this: Pay attention to any lack of range of motion you have in the joint, be careful not to put fitness on to this dysfunction, give ample time for recovery… even after full recovery, be aware of previous injuries to the shoulder or surrounding area, and do not go overboard with the latest “what to do if your shoulder is injured” prescriptions!

Are you currently suffering from a shoulder injury? or any other injury? Are you willing to put in the effort to get it figured out? E-mail us at to get started on the path to recovery and longevity!