Physical Rehabilitation Medicine/Shoulder Exercises


Hi Rachel,

I am a bodybuilder and when it comes to shoulder exercises, I wanted to get your opinion on what are the safer exercises to perform. I have mostly stuck with shoulder presses using dumbbells with medium to very heavy weight. I am starting to feel some shoulder pain now in my left shoulder. It is not a chronic pain or anything, but I know it is not muscle soreness and maybe more of a joint/tendon soreness?

I am concerned about sustaining a shoulder injury, so I am easing up on the shoulders at the moment.

You may already know this, but most of the old famous body builders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger all have major shoulder issues now in their later years and most of them have had surgery. I do not want this to happen to me.

Hi Steve,
I think on some level the ideals of body building and healthy shoulders are incompatible.  Many of the exercises that people do to develop muscle are extremely taxing on the tendons and joint capsules of the shoulders.
A person can be quite strong from exercise and activity that doesn't give the look of a body builder.
There is a belief that you must work a muscle throughout its possible range in order to fully train the muscle.  I don't believe this is necessary.
A general guideline is for you to move weights in a way that resembles what you would be doing in normal activities.
For example: arms forward in a push resembles real life, pulling especially with the middle trapezius and rhomboids which are scapula-thoracic muscles (like for rows) is also a very good activity.
Things I suggest you avoid are flat flys to the side.  People don't pick up heavy objects this way...its awkward and overly strenuous to the shoulders.

If you are feeling pain, you can lighten up, change your routine, and also a good plan is to consult with an expert in muscle balance and joint function which is a PT.


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Rachel Katz, PT, SEP


I have expertise working with recovery from car accidents, RSD/CRPS, neck and back pain and chronic pain. I can answer questions about pain that is not responding to expected patterns of recovery. I can address pain issues that are associated with traumatic events, and veteran associated pain issues. If you have had abuse or periods of significant stress in your life, your pain issues may be more complicated. I authored A Consumer Guide for Recovery from Car Accidents which discusses many aspects of injury recovery as all as specific detail about PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and protective involuntary muscle spasm. The link is: I can't answer questions regarding pain medications, or some specifics related to surgical interventions.


I have over 30 years experience as a Physical Therapy clinician. I taught swimming in Michigan and skiing in Aspen. I have experience in analyzing movement patterns and muscle control. I treat all areas of pain in the body including headaches, neck pain, back pain, shoulder injuries, plantar fasciitis, nerve compression, and knee pain. I have had personal experience with chronic pain, RSD, car accident injuries, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Muscle spasm and pain is a common component of injury and response to traumatic stress. Posture patterns and habits of how your body is often used can also contribute to pain. Restoration of movement and the senses that enable you to feel it are key. Rachel developed and implemented a stress reduction program for inmates within the Boulder County jail's drug and alcohol recovery program in 2005-2006 based on trauma healing principles from Dr. Peter Levine.

Rachel holds a BS in PT from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She has over 30 years experience as a clinician. She has over 1500 hours of post graduate continuing education in many Manual Therapy and Exercise approaches. She completed her training in Somatic Experiencing under Dr. Peter Levine in 2000. This 3 year program trains therapists in treating traumatic stress conditions. Rachel has developed a body of work integrating her training and unique insights into complex pain issues. She is the developer and instructor for Sensory-Motor Manual Therapy, which is a State approved 2 day work shop for Massage Therapists through the Boulder College of Massage Therapy.

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