How to Fix Shoulder Pain Induced by Back Workouts

A common problem that I see by regular lifters at the gym is that they don’t know how to properly train their back. It’s a huge muscle. So naturally it should be trained in higher frequency, but with longer rest periods. However, many of us end up just doing back workouts as much as bicep workouts – can you see any logic in this?

Regardless of the rep volume, the set volume, the amount of training days, and all that stuff, we have to approach our back workouts with the right understanding on how to perform these movements. This is where even some of the bigger guys can find themselves guilty – time and time again, many of us will stack weight onto the bar and pull, but we won’t take the time to make sure that our back muscles are taking all the load.

Over time, this may lead to a painful feeling starting in the shoulders. This may happen while performing a row or even after finishing up the set. But it shouldn’t happen! If we’re training our back, it should be felt in our back and if it’s causing pain elsewhere, we’re definitely doing it wrong.


Minor Changes to Improve Back Exercise Efficiency

If anyone has this problem, hopefully they catch onto it before it goes on for too long. After years, the body will get used to this excitation and it won’t be easily taught otherwise. However, it is always worth trying some minor changes to see if we can enforce the back to feel the movement and to take all the stress of the weight load.

Here are a few quick changes that you may be able to make, which may help you out with this.

1)     Change to supinated grip.

If you have been rowing with a hammer grip, now is the time to change to supinated. Why? Place your hands straight out with your palms facing towards the ground and flip them over to face upwards. What happens to your back once they are facing up? A greater thoracic extension!

Think about it as if the body is trying to go back to its roots, it’s trying to re-enter the womb…a place where fetal position was a natural bodily position. The body is used to trying to assume this position – if someone sits over a computer or doesn’t use proper posture while standing, their shoulders will tend to cave down as if it were trying to re-enter fetal position. But this is not good, especially when there’s a weighted resistance – it leads to the load being accidentally sent to the shoulders and causing injury.

2)     Train your back more.

Many of us make the mistake of focusing on the front body muscles a lot more than the back muscles. This often includes a lot more pressing movements than pulling movements. This creates an imbalance of flexion and extension. We end up relying on flexing too much in comparison to thoracic extension. It simply creates an imbalance. This is something that isn’t easily erased, but corrective stretching can help!

3)     Stretch pectorals and neck.

Try stretching the pectoral and neck muscles prior to performing rows or any other back movements. This could help, so long as the muscles are not so accustomed to the other excitation. In combination with a supinated grip, this can help to trigger thoracic extension – something which plays a vital role in ensuring that the back is targeted properly.

4)     Switch to a barbell.

If this imbalance occurs and causes pain during back movements, especially the row, it is a good idea to take some time to only use a barbell instead of dumbbells. This will make it so that there’s a complete requirement for the body have proper form – it will enforce the chest to come up and the shoulder blades down and together. Performing the rows this way will support imbalance correction.

5)     Lower the weight.

It is also important to consider that maybe we are just trying to lift too much. Many of us are not able to easily tell when we are ready to increase the weight, especially during the barbell row exercise. It is a movement that is easy to cheat on with momentum and jerking. It is also easy to accidentally direct the weight load to a different muscle group. Therefore, it is good to test to see if this is the problem by lowering the weight on a different training day and monitoring to see if the shoulder pain still exists.


There is no one reason for minimal back growth results. However, muscle growth comes down to the fundamentals of bodybuilding. The same goes for any pains or injuries. If you are experiencing pain in your shoulders, chances are it has to do with either your form or structural integrity. Maybe you are doing the movement perfectly, but the front of the body has been overtrained. Maybe it’s the other way around.


These five tips will help to give a better idea on what may be to blame for the shoulder pain and hopefully they will serve as a solution as well. There is no easy answer when it comes to fixing shoulder pains – it could be possible that the pain exists due to an injury caused by a completely different movement and the pain just flares up while performing rows.

However, pain during rows is not something that should occur in the shoulders. This is because it is a back exercise, so it should primarily be felt in the back. You will definitely want to take a step back and address the issue if you are experiencing pain in the shoulders when training your back as you do not want it to just continue to further what may already be a severe muscle imbalance.