Are my shoulders trying to get wider in the bones and joints as I grow from lifting weights?
May 4, 2011 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Are my shoulders trying to get wider in the bones and joints as I grow from lifting weights? What can I do to help it along if so?

I'm doing a proper weights programme at the moment, 7 sets * 7 reps on each basic lift if it matters.

Anyway, I have packed on a fair bit of muscle and feel sensations in my shoulders that I've never felt before.

When I breathe in I a feel a tightness deep in the shoulder joint and a little bit down my side If I push the breath in, it's like my shoulders are trying to stretch outwards. I think the muscles may be growing, and 'trying' to push my shoulders wider.

I must stress that I have worked as a professional massage therapist and am aware of a lot of common problems I've had in the past. I'm sure it's not myofascial pain, or a problem with the joint etc. The muscles are all in good condition as I have been self treating them.

Have you heard of this? If you've experienced it, does it sort itself out or does it become a problem?

I'm in my early 30's so not the best time for growth but I dunno.

And what if anything can I do to ease the process...I do yoga and a bit of stretching already.
posted by Not Supplied to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I should clarify: I don't feel pain or aching, just the deep tightness when I breathe or stretch back.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:17 AM on May 4, 2011

It sounds like your muscles are just tight, possibly your pecs or lats though it's difficult to say from your description.

Your bones will not get bigger from lifting. Your muscles can hypertrophy, making your shoulders bigger, but your bones themselves will not actually get bigger (though they will get more dense!).
posted by schroedinger at 9:22 AM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it's probably not skeletal. You're probably much tighter than you realize, and you may have some muscle imbalances going. If you're not doing a routine specifically designed to protect your rotator cuff, you should strongly consider finding one and doing it.
posted by facetious at 9:28 AM on May 4, 2011

Yeah, "wide shoulders" are a function of muscle size, not skeletal structure (well, in the context of weightlifting anyway.) I would bet your rotator cuff is cranky.

Try this: feel the front of your right shoulder with your left hand. As you move away from your collarbone, you'll feel a knob. Press on the far side of that knob and raise your right arm. You should feel the little notch created. Press down. Does that hurt like hell? Congratulations, your rotator cuff is inflamed!
posted by restless_nomad at 9:32 AM on May 4, 2011

Well I've treated the myofascial points in my rotator cuff muscles extensively including the subscapularis, and ditto with pecs and they get stretched out so I don't know what could be making them tight. Unless they need to 'get used' to a new position or grown in line with the other muscles.

What is a routine to protect rotator cuffs? I do squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, bent over row and bicep curls.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:34 AM on May 4, 2011

I didn't see restless_nomads answer. So the notch test hurts a little bit but not unbearable. You think it's inflamed? So no rotator cuff exercise until the pain goes?
posted by Not Supplied at 9:36 AM on May 4, 2011

I'd drop the overhead presses for a week or two and look into some rotator-specific rehab exercises - the sort you do with the little pink three-pound weights to start. Then when you go back to overhead press, get a buddy to make absolutely sure you're not pressing too far back past the vertical - that's what'll get you.

(You also might want to check your form/drop the weight on your bench press in the meantime. If your elbows are sticking straight out that's going to put some weird stresses on your shoulder.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:44 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the thoughts. I think I may need to treat the subscapularis muscle again - I lean towards doing this not physio stuff. It has some active points. The others are ok, I don't see how they could be inflamed.

I'm not convinced it's the whole story with my shoulders though..not to devalue your input but I just think there's more to the story.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:48 AM on May 4, 2011

Trigger point therapy is great but if you have a strength imbalance in the supporting muscles it's not going to fix it.

I dunno what else might be going on - I just know that whenever something deep within my shoulder aches, I've annoyed my rotator cuff again, and that overhead presses are a common culprit.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:54 AM on May 4, 2011

Acromegalics (and cases like Barry Bonds, depending on who you choose to believe) show that bones can grow in a person your age.

They are conventionally said not to lengthen, but only to grow at the ends, i. e. the joints. This is certainly true in the sense that the parts between the joints don't get any longer, but it's not clear to me that the growth at the joints doesn't produce some lengthening, and I don't see how you could look at the jaws of those acromegalics and deny that some of their bones have gotten longer.

Whether or not weight lifting stimulates the hypothalamic/pituitary axis to produce enough growth hormone to cause your joints to grow significantly, I don't know, but it's not out of the question.

A close friend of mine's ears grew noticeably during a course of chemotherapy lasting only a few months.
posted by jamjam at 10:05 AM on May 4, 2011

My suggestion is to lay off the benching rather than the overhead pressing. Overhead presses are only bad if your form isn't correct. If you keep your elbows facing forward rather than out, then there really shouldn't be a problem with them. Bench presses, OTOH, can be intrinsically bad for you shoulders, and people should probably only do them half as much as they generally do.
Do you actively do rows of any kind? Bentover barbell or dumbell? If it's a muscle imbalance that would help considerably.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:23 AM on May 4, 2011

Trigger point therapy is great but if you have a strength imbalance in the supporting muscles it's not going to fix it.

The way I'm thinking, if I'm doing exercises that work all the muscles, then there shouldn't be an imbalance unless one of the muscles is weakened, say by trigger points.

I just discovered I have terrible points in my supraspinatus that are hard to find lol. So much for everything in good condition. I think this could be the root of the problem, so thanks all for keeping me on that track.

My suggestion is to lay off the benching

I inutively felt that benching was not good for the rotator cuffs, but people talked me into it.

Do you have any suggestions for what a good strength programme would look like, not including benching?

My goal is to get as strong as possible. Not bothered about size or crosstraining at the moment.
posted by Not Supplied at 12:35 PM on May 4, 2011

I've found pushups to be a little easier to find a natural, comfortable position in than benching. Were I you I'd look heavily into some of the gymnastic-style bodyweight movements for press strength. Those are likely to give you more functional strength than the pretty static bench press.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:09 PM on May 4, 2011

Do you have any suggestions for what a good strength programme would look like, not including benching?

Depends on what you're doing now and whether this is an actual problem or just some tight tendons, ligaments or muscles. What does your full program consist of?

Like restless_nomad I think push-ups are far more "functional" and you could work those into your program, but if your metric is strictly strength it's kind of hard to replace the bench press. So we don't really know what the problem is and the big picture is that you should be able to get along fine with bench pressing as long as your form is good and you're balancing that with good pulling work, but laying off some of the pushing exercises would probably clear anything right up.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:06 PM on May 4, 2011

A good strength program would look like this, with the addition of a couple sets of this shoulder health building exercise set on the end of either your A day or B day.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 6:12 PM on May 4, 2011

Oh - and if you're not comfortable with benching, you can replace them with (weighted) dips. Increase weight when you can do 5 with good form. Do 5 sets of each exercise, besides the shoulder stuff.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 6:13 PM on May 4, 2011

posted by Not Supplied at 10:07 PM on May 4, 2011

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