Common Bodybuilding Injuries - Rotator Cuff Muscles & Elbow Pain

Rotator Cuff and Elbow Injuries

Double Trouble Injuries & How to Overcome Them

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The rotator cuffs and the elbow regions are some of the most injury-prone areas for working bodybuilders.


If you have rotator cuff (rear shoulder) problems, your upper-body training will be ruined, and even serious lower-body work will be impaired. Try squatting intensely with a heavy bar across your traps while you have a rotator cuff injury and you will see what I mean.

There are four main reasons why many bodybuilders suffer rotator cuff problems.

1. They use abusive exercises: e.g., behind-the-neck presses.

2. They use lousy form: e.g., lifting one shoulder slightly higher than the other when doing a bench press.

3. They wear down their rotator cuffs by hammering their shoulders several times each week.

4. Due to lousy form, they develop a severe imbalance between the strength of their internal and external rotators.

The rotator cuff is the point at which four small muscles of the upper back connect the shoulder blade to the shoulder joint. Two of these muscles, the infraspinatus and teres minor, are shoulder external rotators. The internal rotators include the pecs and lats, which are far stronger than the small external rotators. Unless you develop the strength of your external rotators, your internal rotators will dominate your shoulder work to such a degree that rotator cuff injuries become highly likely. By strengthening your external rotators, you will establish a more balanced musculature around your shoulder joints and decrease your risk of injury in those areas.


Elbow problems commonly result from lagging finger extensor strength. If you do not rely on the crutches of wrist straps and hooks to hold heavy weights while performing deadlifts, stiff-leg deadlifts, pulldowns and shrugs, you will develop a strong grip as you build up to handling substantial weights. Developing a strong grip is strictly related to the squeezing muscles of the forearms. Developing a strong grip does little to strengthen the muscle that lets you extend your fingers. This imbalance sets up the elbow problems common to many bodybuilders. Abusive exercises such as skull crushers, lying triceps extensions, close-grip bench presses and close-grip barbell curls are usually the main cause of elbow problems, but imbalanced forearm musculature is also a factor.

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