Since a lot of my background is in injury prevention, I get questions all the time about preventing and rehabbing injuries, as well as the “when I do this, this hurts” questions. The two most common ones:
1) My shoulder hurts after I bench
2) My low back hurts after I deadlift
Both are extremely common and extremely unnecessary.
There are a few exercises you can add to your repertoire to prevent both of these conditions. Sometimes these are referred to as “prehabilitation” exercises, which is just a clever way of saying that you use them to prevent rehab. I’m a firm believer in putting the time in to prevent injuries before they occur, opposed to pushing forward with the blinders on, getting hurt, and having to take time away from your training to fix a preventable injury. Frankly, the latter situation seems completely mindless and illogical.
Typically people get shoulder pain when benching from a host of ailments commonly referred to as shoulder impingement. This can be partially prevented by pinning your shoulder blades back and down before you bench and keeping your elbows in close to your sides, not winged out to 90 degrees. Neither position is better for building strength or size (another common misconception); one is just safer for your shoulders than the other.
However, I’ve also found that adding in some scapular stability and glenohumeral mobility work before benching helps a lot. These are four of my favorite exercises:
1) Scapular Stability (Lower Trapezius Activation)
2) Scapular Stability (Serratus Anterior Activation)
3) Glenohumeral Mobility/Scapular Stability
4) Glenohumeral Mobility
The low back pain from deadlifting problem is typically due to one of three things:
1) Horrible form
2) Your lower back being your weakest link, in which case it’s better to start with lighter weights to build up some strength in your spinal stabilizers AND practice the movement before moving onto heavier weights. This process should only take a few weeks and will save you lots of pain and discomfort in the future.
3) Poor glute activation. Many of you have probably heard this before. If your glutes (those big muscles that you sit on) aren’t producing enough force at the right times, muscles above (the low back) and/or below (the hamstrings) will need to pick up the slack. I’ve found that pairing deadlifts with a glute bridge variation eliminates this problem altogether. I try to get my 3-4 sets of the glute bridge variation done pairing it with my warm-up sets on deadlifting, that way I can focus on the heavy lifts and just relax/focus in between. Although simple and very related, these are my three favorite glute bridge variations:
1) Glute Bridge: http://www.prodigyperformancetraining.com/GluteBridge.html
2) Glute Bridge w/ MiniBand: http://www.prodigyperformancetraining.com/GluteBridgeMarchMiniBand.html
3) 1-Leg Glute Bridge w/ Leg Up: http://www.prodigyperformancetraining.com/1LegGBLegUp.html
Try throwing these exercises into your warm-ups and pairing your primary lifts with them and see if it helps get rid of your pain.
Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.