Shoulder Pain and the Deadlift

Shoulder Pain and the Deadlift

Shoulder pain and the Deadlift can be a challenging combination. The Deadlift is a single-leg exercise that heavily depends on your hips’ strength and stability. Lifting weights from the ground will strain your shoulders if you have weak or overstretched hips. The Deadlift is one of the most common strength training exercises that work out your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and back muscles.

I got a question from a fix-my shoulder pain client, and he was asking about the deadlift and shoulder pain.

Here is his exact question:

Is there something that I need to remember when performing the deadlift if I am recovering from a shoulder injury?

Yes, there is. I go through it in this video:

Let me summarize things that I went through in the video.

Keys to Remember for the Deadlift and Shoulder Pain

And yes, there are a couple of things that you need to remember or add to your deadlift technique or cueing scheme.

What it involves is:

  • Make sure your thoracic spine is in a good position
  • activating your mid traps
  • activating your lats
  • activating your rhomboids

Doing those four things will create good stability and protection for the shoulder so you can do a shoulder-safe deadlift.

Common Mistakes in the Deadlift that can Lead to Shoulder Pain

If I am flexed in the thoracic spine, the arms hang, and there’s a greater risk of that shoulder being pulled out of its ideal position or centration. I want to ensure a perfect alignment or part of the shoulder to protect it from re-injury. The four things that I highlighted will help with that.

Four Things to Remember

  1. If I flatten out the thoracic spine more (activate the thoracic extensor muscles), this will help put the shoulder in a better position.
  2. Then if I end up activating the mid traps, this will put better tension around the shoulder blade.
  3. Then if I bring the rhomboid into things, it will retract the scapula and move the shoulder joint back.
  4. Lastly, bringing the lats into it will build more tension around the shoulder joint.

Doing these four things will lead to a more stable and protected position when performing the Deadlift.

New Technique and a Decrease in Weight

Now, once again, with nearly all exercises, when you start playing around with your technique and cueing, it affects the load you can lift for a short period.

But after you integrate the new technique into your movement, your muscles figure out how to do it, your body figures out the action, and the weight will catch up.


So there you go. Those are the four things that you can do to protect your shoulder if you are recovering from a shoulder injury or shoulder pain when you are doing the Deadlift.

Recommended Resource

Now, if you are looking for a fantastic resource for the Deadlift, I recommend Deadlift Dynamite. It is written by Pavel Tsatsouline (The person who brought the kettlebell to North America) and Andy Bolton (The first person to deadlift 1000 lbs.) It is a fantastic resource.

Take care and bye, bye.

Rick Kaselj, MS

Shoulder Pain Solved