Troubleshooting End Range Shoulder Pain

About the Author: Eric Cressey

Q: I have pain in the front of my shoulder just at the end of my range of motion on rows. I thought rows were the universally safe exercise when it comes to shoulder health?

A: Normally, they’re a very safe bet – but as with any exercise, if performed incorrectly (or not matched to individual tolerances), they can cause problems.

This scenario most commonly occurs when the humerus goes into end-ROM extension, but the scapula stops retracting. Generally, this early end to retraction occurs secondary to a tight pec minor, which gets people stuck in protraction and anterior tilt. When you keep forcing extension on a fixed scapula, the humeral head translates forward in the joint capsule – and you can develop anterior shoulder laxity over time. A strong subscapularis can help to resist this anterior pull.

However, if your pec minor and infraspinatus/teres minor are tight, subscapularis is weak, and you’re forcing end-range a bit too hard, it’ll irritate you sooner than later. This is why it’s so important to ensure that the shoulder blade move back AND down as you row. You’ll be in trouble if the scapula tilts anteriorly as you approach end-range.

Obviously, there are a ton of other factors at work with shoulder function, but this is a good Cliff’s Notes version to what’s going on with you.

Eric Cressey


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