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Lifting after Shoulder Surgery

Written on July 22, 2008 at 7:41 am, by Eric Cressey

Q: I’ve found your articles on T-Nation very informative, and enjoy the format you use to convey your message (with humor!).

My specific interest is in the information you provide about your shoulder problems, as you’ve noticed in the subject line I recently had my shoulder scoped in February to repair a labral tear. I did the required PT, and then when that was finished they pretty much sent me out on my own and said only do internal and external rotations for delts/rotator cuff. Overhead pressing and upright rows will supposedly cause problems according to the therapist (but I question this).

I’ve read in your articles that the shoulders get plenty of work from chest and back/lat exercises, and that external rotation variations may be adequate, with occasional presses and laterals. Can I do dumbbbell presses with palms facing in to reduce shoulder pain, as well as laterals for the middle/posterior heads without causing problems? I seem to be progressing fairly well with higher rep sets on my upper body, but want to make sure I do the correct things to set myself up for a lifetime of healthy lifting and stable shoulders.

A: If I am you, and I have a shoulder surgery, I can the overhead pressing for good. And, I think upright rows are quite possibly the single worst exercise for shoulder health. I wrote about this HERE – but the short version is that you don’t want to go through abduction (especially above 90 degrees) with the humeral head maximally internally rotated.

Dumbbell bench pressing (not overhead pressing) is fine – and the lateral raises should be okay as long as you stay in the scapular plane. Check out my Shoulder Savers series at T-Nation for details on that front.

And, above all else, you need to buy the Inside-Out DVD.

It sounds like you are getting way too “rotator cuff-focused” and are ignoring a bunch of other factors that are incredibly important for shoulder health; these include thoracic spine range-of-motion and scapular stability (among other things). Shoulder health is about more than just getting stronger “all over;” it’s about optimizing range-of-motion and muscular balance. It would definitely be a good investment – and much cheaper than another shoulder surgery!

5 Responses to “Lifting after Shoulder Surgery”

  1. Scott Says:

    Hey Eric –

    I had shoulder surgery about 5+ months ago and am using “Maximum Strength” to get back to where I was. I noticed you have some overhead pressing in there. What would you recommend as a substitute for those with shoulder issues?

    Thanks. Scott

  2. Scott Says:

    Hey Eric –

    I had shoulder surgery about 5+ months ago and am using “Maximum Strength” to get back to where I was. I noticed you have some overhead pressing in there. What would you recommend as a substitute for those with shoulder issues?

    Thanks. Scott

  3. Eric Cressey Says:

    Scott,

    I’d use an alternating DB floor press.

  4. Scott Says:

    Thanks for your help Eric! Great book, I have really enjoyed the first few weeks and feel like after 16 I will be better than I was before my injury.

  5. Kyle Says:

    In your article “Cracking the Rotator Cuff Conundrum” you recommend the Cuban Press. I assume this would be inappropriate too post shoulder surgery since it has an overhead pressing element?

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