Eliminating Shoulder Pain from Bootcamps for Women

Our team has seen an increase in women frustrated by shoulder pain and stiffness from their bootcamp work outs. We know that camps can be intense (and they need to be!) but we know how important it is to stick to a goal and not let your accountability partner down when your shoulder just doesn’t feel right.

So, instead of pushing through the pain or worse missing camps, let’s take a look where things can go wrong and how to build them back stronger and more resilient. We’ve built this guide to help understand the biomechanics for bootcamps and now to start getting your shoulder pain and stiffness to go away immediately. Let’s take a look.

Why does this affect women?

Women enjoying bootcamps as one of their fitness tools have two factors affecting their performance in camp, children and hypermobility.
Children- There is a significant percentage of women working out that have small children and toddlers. The problem with this age group of kiddos is the increased time holding or carrying them. Everyone has a dominant arm they like to hold their kid(s) in. Because of this we start developing strength differences in each arm. With bootcamp, when you start fatiguing that strength difference will become prominent. If you’ve ever felt one arm working harder than the other with your push-ups or shoulder presses, this would be why. This can happen regardless of kids, but we do see that consistently this is a factor if kids are involved.

Women tend to have more mobility, especially with shoulders, spine and hips. Because of this, when the body is moving with weight or with intensity then it requires more muscles to work to stabilize the joints. This is very common for women and the shoulder joint. When it comes to pushups, pull ups, pressing, burpees, etc the shoulder blade muscles have to work extra hard to keep the shoulder joint in the correct position. When those muscles fatigue OR they don’t know how to fire in the first place then compensation occurs while pain and stiffness can ensue shortly after.

What’s the biggest risk factor?

We call it the chicken wing affect. In a nutshell, or maybe eggshell would be more appropriate, is when the hand moves away from the body the shoulder rotates the wrong way and uses the wrong muscles. In the pictures below we outline the correct (left) and incorrect (right) positions.




What we want to have when we move our arms is that the elbow stays inside of the hand throughout the movement. We do NOT want the elbows to essentially “chicken wing” out, which causes more stress on the shoulders and neck. This applies for any shoulder movement.

So how do we fix this? Our 3-step approach

Step 1- Reduce muscle imbalance stress- The lats, which attach from the shoulder to the tailbone, are the biggest muscle group to work when we chicken wing. Therefore, it’s the biggest muscle group we can mobilize with foam rolling to help reduce tension and pain at the shoulder joint. When pain and stiffness is present, this is something to be done more often than not. After activity, computer work and before bed are the most optimal times. See video below for details.

Step 2- Re-establish the scapular muscles- After we calm down the lats from overworking, we want to get the RIGHT muscles firing. In this case, we are using simple movements to get the brain muscle connection back in sync. Although seemingly simple, this is the most significant step to correct the underlying problem. We typically use something simple like bilateral external rotation with and without a band (as seen in the video below). The secret sauce for success is repetitions. We’re not talking 3 sets of 10, we’re talking 10-15 reps every HOUR. The more you create positive change, the more it sticks.

Step 3- Reinforce correct shoulder position through full ROM- This step requires using step 2 of scapular tension and maintaining it throughout full ROM of shoulder movement. We are building the foundation to the house back. One of our favorite drills that is easier to execute and always challenging is the resisted wall slide, seen in the video below.

Ready to FINALLY get rid of that shoulder pain?

Performing steps 1-3 will get you started in the right direction for resolving shoulder pain at bootcamps. Check out the video below for the full tutorial. If you have questions, let us know!

If you want answers to your specific problem you’re dealing with, click on the link below to schedule your free orthopedic consultation with one of our specialists today!


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