No pain, no gain. Although this phase is common in almost every gym, is it true? Shoulder pain caused by weight training is well documented in literature and a given among experienced weight lifters. However, why is that and is there a way to avoid shoulder pain and still workout? A recent study says that certain exercises may contribute to shoulder pain. The study, published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, examined just how common shoulder pain is among recreational weight lifters, and if there was a relationship between exercise selection and shoulder pain. The study included 110 men, who participated in weight training for at least 10 weeks and trained at least twice a week. Participants completed provided information on training frequency and duration, the presence of shoulder pain during weight lifting in the past three days, six months and year, and finally, they were asked if they preformed any “high risk” exercises. Of the participants, 61 percent reported shoulder pain within the past year, 49 percent within the past six months and 33 percent had shoulder pain in the past three days or were currently having pain. The study also found a relationship between including either the behind-the-neck lat pull-down or the military press and shoulder pain. The behind-the-neck lat pull-down is not only bad for your shoulders, but places the neck and spine in a vulnerable position. By pulling the weight in front of your body, not only is it safer, but also you will be able to do more weight and reps. Another possible reason for such a larger number of men experiencing shoulder pain is muscle imbalance. Overusing or over working certain muscles can lead to muscle imbalances that affect posture and body positions. It is common to walk into a commercial gym and see countless more pressing machines than pulling machines. Machines to work the chest, the upper chest, the shoulders (one for each front, middle and rear deltoid). These machines focus on the “mirror muscles,” or the muscle in front of the body. A lot of guys want to build their chest, shoulders and arms and can sometimes forget to balance the workout with an equal amount of pulling exercises. This can lead to a muscle imbalance that can cause shoulder pain. Examine your workout program and see if there are more pushing exercises like bench presses, pushups, dips and flys and compare that to the pulling exercises like cable rows, pull-ups and lat pull downs. If you notice an imbalance then rewrite the program and include an uneven amount of pulling exercises. A 1-to-2 ratio of pushing to pulling, and even a 1-to-3, depending on how significant the imbalance is. Just balancing out the program won’t do much. Overdoing the pulling exercise will fix the imbalance much faster. Another option is to lay off the bench presses, but let’s be honest, that isn’t going to happen. It is important to perform the exercise correctly. If you do the exercise wrong and use the wrong muscles, even though the workout program may be balanced, the incorrect exercise execution creates an imbalance.Having a balanced workout program and avoiding high risk exercises are two great ways to help avoid shoulder pain. — Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach at Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more information and articles.