The Crossfitters Guide to Fixing Your Shoulder Pain in 30 Days

Replace pain with strength, enhance overhead performance, correct shoulder dysfunction and build stability overhead.

Shoulder pain is common among athletes and Crossfitters, so here is how to understand and solve the issues that could be causing yours. Even if you have never experienced shoulder pain, knowledge is power, so understanding how your body works, and training progressions that will strengthen and improve the mobility of your shoulders will make you a more efficient and intelligent athlete

OPTIMISING YOUR SHOULDER HEALTH

This plan is designed to fix your shoulder pain in 30 days. It is designed by Crossover Symmetry – a performance based system and the smartest path to optimal shoulder health and performance. You can prevent many injuries by enhancing the balance and function of the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizing muscles. It works to achieve 3 fundamental aims:

  • Pain free shoulders
  • Injury prevention
  • Optimal performance
Shoulder pain mobility in Crossfit

Fix your shoulder pain

© RX'd Photography

Healthy shoulders are high performance shoulders. Use this plan to also increase speed, power and strength. Check out how and why Ben Bergeron uses Crossover Symmetry to fix shoulder pain in his athletes. 

BEN BERGERON’S FORMULA FOR SHOULDER HEALTH

30 DAY PLAN TO FIX YOUR SHOULDER PAIN

This is a general template for fixing shoulder pain. Check out the Training Zone for sport specific training programs to keep you engage in your activity while alleviating your shoulder issues.

The Crossover Symmetry 30 Day Shoulder Fix was designed to solve the underlying dysfunctions that cause shoulder pain while promoting healing of injured tissues. Each week will have fewer movement restrictions and will challenge the shoulder through increasingly difficult positions. These movement progressions are paired with the Crossover Symmetry System, in which the shoulders will become stronger and better equipped to handle the increased for the following week.

Each week will conclude with a provocative test for the shoulder progression included in the following week. If you have any shoulder pain with the week’s provocative test, it is a sign that you shouldn’t move to the following week. Just reset and do that week again.

30 DAY SHOULDER FIX

WEEK 1

The primary focus for this week is to reduce shoulder inflammation and to start fixing shoulder position. It’s also important to evaluate what may be the cause of your shoulder pain. Is it due to the physical demand of your life, sport, or profession? Are you sitting for too many hours with bad shoulder posture? Or maybe there is an imbalance that needs correcting? You should also use the Crossover Symmetry Red Flag Screen to determine if there is an underlying issue that may need further evaluation.

  • Use Crossover Symmetry Activation daily with modified range of motion and reduced resistance if needed.
  • Use the Crossover Symmetry Mobility program 6x/week.

New week…set the tone. #scapjacked 📸@elleryphotos

A post shared by Crossover Symmetry (@crossoversymmetry) on

Restrictions:

Reduce shoulder stress at all cost. Limit shoulder activities to light loads and no overhead lifting on the symptomatic side. Also, avoid carrying things for a long period, such as a child or backpack.

Provocative Test:

Crossover Symmetry Activation program without movement modifications and without pain.

Shoulder issues should be significantly diminished; it’s time to start focusing on strengthening. The Crossover Symmetry Strength program will focus more intensely on strengthening the joint and improving movement quality.

WEEK 2 

This week should up the ante regarding load on the shoulder, while the Recovery program will help further your arm recovery by increasing blood flow through the injured shoulder to help the healing process.

  • Use Crossover Symmetry Activation Daily.
  • Use the Crossover Symmetry Mobility program 3x/week.
  • Use the Crossover Symmetry Recovery program 3x/week.

Restrictions:

You can start to increase the load on your shoulder. However, avoid any loaded pressing movements (lifting overhead, push-ups, pushing heavy object, etc.), and continue to avoid the things that you feel might be causing your pain.

Provocative Test:

Crossover Symmetry Strength program pain free.

More information on exercises

WEEK 3

  • Use Crossover Symmetry Activation daily.
  • Use the Crossover Symmetry Mobility program 3x/week.
  • Use the Crossover Symmetry Strength program 3x/week.

Restrictions:

This week will see fewer restrictions. You may begin pressing things below shoulder height, however, avoid pressing things overhead.

Provocative Test:

Test out an activity you love that was once painful.

It’s time to take on your life pain free. Return to your normal daily activities; however, continue to avoid those things that provoke you shoulder issues. Specifically, be careful with the volume and load when moving things overhead, and be aware of how much stress you are placing on your shoulder.

WEEK 4

  • Use Crossover Symmetry Activation daily.
  • Use the Crossover Symmetry Strength program 3x/week.
  • Use the Crossover Symmetry Mobility program 3x/week.

Restrictions:

There will be no restrictions this week, other than monitoring the volume and load placed on the shoulder.

Provocative Test:

Is your daily living free from shoulder pain or numbness? Progressively return to your normal daily living without restriction or limitation for your shoulders.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR SHOULDERS

Understanding your own body is an important key to becoming a fitter and healthier athlete. 

THE ROTATOR CUFF

There are a total of four muscles that make up the rotator cuff. Here are the three that are situated on the back of the scapula. The last one, subscapularis can be found on the inside/ front of the scapula.

The rotator cuff

© @itsjulieread

The cool thing about the rotator cuff is that it’s easy to remember the order of the muscles going counter-clockwise if you’re looking at someone’s right side. Starting at the top of the humeral head is supraspinatus, then infraspinatus, teres minor and coming around in the front is subscapularis. S.I.T.S. It’s an acronym.

Keeping the humeral head (the top of the humerus) from popping out of the shoulder joint is the main job of the rotator cuff muscles. 

THE SCAPULAE

Your scapulae (scaps for short) are the foundation of your shoulder joint and these flat wing like bones help to anchor your shoulder to your torso. Any exercise where you move your upper arm utilises your scapulae in some way and any weakness in the 17 different muscles that connect to it will translate into weakness in the movement. They are an incredibly mobile bone, tilting and rotating to accommodate the wide range of movement of the shoulder joint.

scapular health diagram of the skeleton

Anterior view of the Scapulae

© Chris Webb

HOW TO TEST YOUR SCAPULAR HEALTH

Here’s a quick test for you: grab a small straight object like a pen or toothbrush, one in each hand and stand up straight, shoulders relaxed. Are your objects pointing straight ahead or inwards? If they’re pointing in towards your body, I’m sorry to say you probably have far from optimal scapular function.

Our modern lives of sitting in chairs and hunching over keyboards has weakened the muscles in this area causing poor shoulder mobility and stability, which can spell disaster if you’re an active Crossfitter. This is one of the many reasons why focusing on your shoulder health is essential. 

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

1. FOR PERFORMANCE

Of your overhead reach, the muscles around your scapulae are responsible for 60 degrees of movement. Everybody knows that a strong overhead pressing or jerking position involves having your upper arm behind your ear, your glutes switched on, your abs tight and your ribcage pinned down. So if you struggle to get the bar directly overhead without having to break good form and flare out your ribcage – compromising safety as well as strength – your scapulae could be the problem.

Scapular strength is also fundamental for pressing, rowing, the snatch and overhead squat. When you’ve got the bar overhead in that wide grip, scapular and lat activation help to put your shoulders in a strong position and stop them rolling forward. As well as being an incredibly dangerous position for your shoulders to be in, inwardly rolled shoulders will shift your centre of gravity forward, bringing you onto your toes and often resulting in a failed lift.

You may be surprised to learn that even for a mostly lower body movement like the back squat good scapula function can help. If you can’t squeeze them tight to stabilise your back when you’re high bar back squatting, your torso is less likely to remain upright and the weight could pull you forwards onto your toes into a weaker and potentially dangerous position.

2. FOR INJURY PREVENTION

There is no way around it, CrossFit® requires strong shoulders and good scapular health. From overhead squats to toes to bar, weak shoulders will lead to sub-par performances and possibly injury.

overhead mobility crossfit

Strengthen your overhead mobility

© RX'd Photography

Poor shoulder position caused by weak control around the scapulae can stress tendons and ligaments around your shoulder girdle. This stress accumulates slowly, over weeks, months and even years. You may not notice these little micro injuries as they occur, but eventually that one final overhead squat with poor form could be the final straw that broke the camel’s shoulder.

If your scaps can’t move properly to get into strong positions, other parts of your shoulder such as the rotator cuff will have to try and compensate and move in ways that they are not designed to do so. This can result in rotator cuff tears, impingement, bursitis rotator cuff tendonitis/tendinosis and labrum injuries to name a few.

Crossover Symmetry is an excellent way to bulletproof your shoulders and fix shoulder pain. Try this 30 day program to solve your pain and/or to generate more effective, pain free and healthy movement and performance in the future.

Fix your Shoulders Now!