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Home  /  Blog  /  Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy in Weightlifters
Bench press can cause rotator cuff tendinopathy
4th November 2022

Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy in Weightlifters

What is Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy?

Also known as Impingement Syndrome, a rotator cuff tendinopathy refers to the inflammation of the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder. These muscles control of the position of the ball of the shoulder joint (humerus head) on the socket during the arm movements. The main function is to coordinate the movement and stabilize the joint rather than create strength.  As the name suggests, these tendons create a cuff around the humerus head, to hold it in place and allow for a smooth movement.

Problems arise when these structures, for various reasons that we will see below, become irritated and swollen. The tendons then may start to impinge between the head of the humerus and the roof of the shoulder, causing pain ranging from a dull ache to very sharp. You may also find that the shoulder becomes hot, loses range of motion, and the arm becomes weaker as a result.

Muscles and Tendons Affected

  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres minor and subscapularis


Rotator cuff tendinopathy is most often caused by a combination of factors:

  • Repetitive pushing, pulling or overhead movements, common gym culprits are overhead press, bench press and bent over/seated rows.
  • Poor posture and poor technique
  • Trauma to the shoulder

Why Have I Developed Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy?

The most likely reason for development of RCT is a poor posture when performing exercises, affecting the form of the exercise.

Common causes of poor form are:

  • Using too much weight
  • Weakness in supporting stabiliser muscles.

When your posture weakens your shoulders will tend to roll forward and down. This position causes the gap between the acromion process and the head of the humerus to narrow, creating a bottle neck effect for the tendons that pass through. The tendons are then squashed against the surface of the bones, which in turn causes them to become inflamed. This means that when this joint gap becomes narrow during the movement, the now inflamed tendons may be impinged by the joint which causes pain.

How Can I Prevent Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy?

Our top 5 ways to prevent RCT in your workout:

  • Maintain proper posture when lifting weights
  • Practice regular shoulder conditioning and mobility
  • Lift with a weight/resistance that allows for proper form
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Avoid small collisions that can cause trauma

How Can I Treat Rotator Cuff Tendionpathy?

  • Strengthen shoulder blade stabilisers (Y-T-W exercise)
  • Stretch your pectorals 
  • Banded internal and external rotation
  • Ice application after training
  • Finger wall walk
  • Behind the back towel stretch

Personal best tip: When performing seated overhead movements, the angle of the chair does not have to be at a 90 degree incline. A 70-80 degree incline is equally effective for building strength and muscle, with the added benefit of being a more natural movement for your shoulders.

If the pain doesn’t subside in a couple of weeks, you should seek help from a qualified medical professional. Here at Swissphysio we are specialised in treating sports injuries and it is our mission to help athletes like you to be able to go back the their sport in the safest and quickest possible way.

If neglected, a small problem can develop into a more serious cases of RCT may require steroid injections or surgery depending on their severity.

Book your appointment with Sports Therapist James Curtis today: 0191 296 0567 | | book online

Published on: 4th November 2022