Training

Why Do My Shoulders Pop When I Do Lateral Raises?

Updated December 18th 2020

Come find out why your shoulders are popping when you are doing lateral raises.

Is this normal or not?

Obviously, not right?

Many lifters do not like the way their shoulders grind and pop during lateral raises.

In most cases, this is painful to do the movement.

In other cases, their shoulders only start to pop and grind after they have been doing a lot of repetitions on a compound movement.

So, let us figure out how to stop your shoulders from painful popping during lateral raises.

SHOULDER POPPING DURING LATERAL RAISES

Your shoulders are popping from lateral raises due to one or a combination of the following reasons:

  • Scapula instability
  • Lack of warmups
  • Bad posture; rounded shoulders
  • Overuse, not enough rest
  • Genetically suboptimal acromion

SCAPULA STABILITY

In today’s world, we live in a time where computers and desk jobs are abundant.

As a result, many lifters may be stuck behind a desk.

They will develop rounded shoulders and a bad posture.

Little did you know, it is this exact position that is causing your shoulders to click and pop.

As your shoulders round forward, your supraspinatus gets pinched, which can cause you pain and discomfort.

The key is to work on your scapula mobility. This can be done using the YTWL exercises.

Lack of WARMUPS

For some veteran lifters, they will claim that doing warmups helps their shoulders feel more relaxed before doing any working sets.

This is a fact since you will help excite the muscles and pump more blood to them.

Warm-ups can be done for as little or as long as you desire.

It is usually not recommended to do very long warm-ups since you may fatigue yourself prior to doing any heavy exercises.

If your shoulder gets worse with more movement or continues to hurt, you should stop exercising the joint.

You should definitely get it checked out since that is not a common experience for healthy shoulder mobility.

EXTERNALLY ROTATE YOUR HUMERUS

As stated above, your shoulder popping and grinding may be a result from your shoulder being rounded forward.

This will impinge one section of your shoulder muscles.

So, to combat this, you will need to practice how to externally rotate your humerus (upper arm bone).

To externally rotate your arm, turn your palms away from your body.

With a more supinated grip, you will open up more space in your shoulder joint.

This will limit the number of contact tendons and muscles can grind or click against your bones.

JUST STAY AWAY FROM LATERAL RAISES

If you are getting shoulder pain from lateral raises, why continue the exercise?

Just because it is in your program?

It is one thing to follow your program so that you are able to stay consistent.

Humans need to build up consistency and repetition before habits are ingrained.

This is one reason why coaches and many experienced lifters emphasize the importance of sticking to your program no matter your circumstance.

However, if you have injured yourself, you need to be smart about it.

Do you want to stay consistent and keep on reaggravating the injury?

This is similar to picking a scab. 

Your injury will only get better if you let it heal and rest.

Legendary powerlifter and bodybuilder Stan Efferding, AKA The White Rhino, used this technique to get back into squatting and deadlifting heavy.

As a quick side note, if you do deadlift every week to focus on other movements to exert pressure on your shoulder without pain, you are moving in the right direction.

It is all about managing and not experience pain when performing compound movements.

OVERUSE AND NOT ENOUGH REST

What if I told you that you are working hard but not recovering enough?

Maybe one reason, the biggest reason why your shoulders are popping and clicking when you do any lateral or front raises is that your body is tired.

Your shoulders need more rest.

You worked it too hard.

You hit 10 working sets of overhead presses and your shoulders cannot stop popping when you lift your arms overhead.

Or what hitting 6 sets of bench presses but your shoulder feel like a rock and you do not want to move them.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the muscles that support your shoulder are not that big.

Yes, especially for lifters and athletes that want superior muscle growth and strength, you will need to train all your muscles hard.

But you will need to pay a price.

You will need to focus way more than recovery and mobility.

Yes, going to the gym and destroying your body is the easy part. That is how you got to this point - having clicky and popping shoulders.

Genetically suboptimal acromion

Another reason why your shoulder pops during lateral raises is that your acromion is hooked.

Typically, an acromion is supposed to be flat and the bone should not drastically narrow the space for your humerus to glide through.

However, through injuries, weakness, stress, and environmental changes, your acromion could slowly change and develop bone in places where it should not.

It can develop a gradual hook, which will increase the potential for impingement in the future.

Now, this does not mean that if you have a hooked acromion, you will 100% experience shoulder popping symptoms.

At the same time, even if you have a flat acromion, you can still experience shoulder popping even though you have a typical acromion.

This is just one of many factors to look at when deciding what is the cause of your shoulder popping.

Most likely, your shoulder popping occurred even before you started to do lateral and front raises.

It just happened that this was the activity that caused your symptoms to magnify and reveal to you that something is wrong with your shoulder and you should consider remedies to fix it before it gets worse.

WHY ARE YOU DOING LATERAL RAISES?

Many gym bros and experienced lifters will tell you how important it is to develop big shoulders.

Many programs will include them at the end of a shoulder or bench workout so that they can overload the shoulder muscles.

However, if you are willing to follow a beginner program like Greyskull LP, you will see that less is more sometimes.

If you truly need more shoulder exercises to assist in growth, there are endless options.

Doing lateral and front raises are just a few of the best exercises to target your shoulders.

However, from an exercise scientist’s point of view, the lateral raise is one of the worst shoulder exercises you can do. 

Here is why:

THE SUPRASPINATUS IS A SMALL MUSCLE

The supraspinatus is one of four muscles that make up your rotator cuff.

It is a delicate muscle and is often activated whenever you abduct and lift your shoulder.

When using heavy weights, it can often be overworked and strained.

BURSA IS UNDERNEATH THE SUPRASPINATUS

This is another reason why many people tend to experience complex shoulder issues.

Some lifters can develop bursitis, which is an inflammation of the bursa.

The supraspinatus can be overused very easily and can lead to inflammation.

CONTROLLED MOTIONS ARE THE BEST

Heavy and powerful movements are not recommended to strengthen your rotator cuff.

If you are looking to grow your smaller muscles, doing controlled and light weight exercises are best.

WORK ON YOUR MIDDLE DELTS WITH A DIFFERENT EXERCISE

If you read online that you can work your middle or rear delts using lateral or front raises, you have been fooled.

These two exercises in particular still activate your front delts and rotator cuff to a very large degree.

If you are performing these exercises at the end of a workout, after hammering a heavy bench press or overhead press workout, you may be in for a world of pain.

WHERE ARE YOU FEELING THE SHOULDER POPPING?

NEAR YOUR NECK

Make sure this is not neck pain from shoulder pressing.

If you are feeling your shoulder grind or pop near your neck, it is probably a supraspinatus issue.

Work on mobilizing the surrounding muscles.

Relax the muscles.

Work on trying to externally rotate your humerus. Work on your posture.

ON YOUR BACK, NEAR YOUR SHOULDER BLADES

Grinding and popping around your shoulder blades indicates a lack of scapula mobility.

Work on relaxing and massaging the surrounding muscles in your back, traps, and shoulders.

Doing the YTWL exercises would be highly recommended to reteach your body how to move its scapula correctly.

STRENGTHEN YOUR ROTATOR CUFF TO PREVENT FUTURE SHOULDER POPPING

Some lifters have found this solution to be effective in dealing with their shoulder popping.

They used rehab exercises to strengthen their rotator cuff.

They will usually focus on external rotation, internal rotation, abduction, flexion, and extension movements.

They will also use light weights when performing these exercises to not overload your delicate shoulder muscles.

CONSIDER RESTING AND MOBILIZING

Many athletes go through hell in their training.

All the more reason you need to make sure you are getting proper treatment to accelerate recovery.

Speed up recovery?

Yes, hot/cold treatment.

Physical therapy.

Massage.

Acupuncture.

A great diet.

Uninterrupted sleep.

The list goes on and on for what you MUST do outside the gym.

We know what it takes to get results inside the gym.

But the day-to-day grind of everyday life will determine what your results will be.

How do I know?

Simple.

After today’s workout session, how do you know you will be ready for the next one?

What do you make sure you do religiously so that you are ready for the next workout.

I will let you answer that one.

CONCLUSION

Always make sure you do not perform movements in pain.

A healthy shoulder joint should not click, grind, or pop constantly.

However, just because it occasionally pops, you do not need to worry.

However, constant clicking and grinding should be concerning and is not normal.

 


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