When COVID shutdowns began and gyms closed their doors, fitness-minded people around the world faced the challenge of continuing the daily grind from the safety of their homes. With equipment providers out of stock and private sellers price gouging the public, we turned to the only training tool we had left: our own bodies. What ensued was endless burpees, squats, push-ups, and lunges, giving us the satisfaction that we were staying fit during quarantine. The home exercise program boom had begun.
In recent weeks, we have seen a big uptick in patients with complaints of anterior shoulder pain. But shoulder pain isn’t anything new, so what’s the big deal?
As we listened to reports of how the pain started, we began to see a pattern emerge. Most (if not all) seemed to go something like this. “Well, my gym closed down and I didn’t have much equipment to start a home exercise program and I needed to figure out how to stay healthy. My shoulder started bugging me after a few weeks of starting the “XYZ Body1000 Home Program.”
We began to put the pieces together and develop a common diagnosis. We coined it: “COVID shoulder”. The ironic thing is, you don’t even need to catch the virus to develop it.
COVID shoulder is a musculoskeletal condition that can clinically be explained as a strain of the anterior glenohumeral ligaments of the shoulder and associated dynamic stabilizing structures. Symptoms include pain in the front of the shoulder during horizontal abduction as in when opening your arms for a big hug and shoulder extension like when you reach for your back pocket. COVID shoulder occurs when you place repeated, excessive, and ballistic demands on the anterior shoulder structures without enough time to recover from session to session. Without including exercise to balance the pushing and impact, we could see this diagnosis far into the future.
Thankfully, the cure for COVID shoulder is very simple: start doing more pulling exercises that work the musculature of your posterior shoulders and upper back. We recommend a 2-1 ratio of pulling to pushing for optimal shoulder health. This means for every pressing movement you do, you should do 2 pulling exercises. While this simplistic concept might not apply to EVERYONE with shoulder pain, for those suffering from COVID shoulder, it is the obvious place to start.
Now that gyms are open almost everywhere again, don’t fall victim to this easily preventable condition. Work your back as much as your front with the following exercises and keep those shoulders healthy.
Top 3 Moves to Cure COVID Shoulder
1. If You Have No Equipment
- Two-handed bed sheet row. NOTE: we tied a knot on one end of the sheet and closed the door on it. One-handed bed sheet row. NOTE: Keeping the shoulders square to the door is an important detail.
- Two-handed bed sheet LOW row. NOTE: Make it tougher by starting with your feet closer to the door handle.
- TRX System Two-handed row. NOTE: Make it tougher by starting with your feet closer and more forward.
- TRX System Two INVERTED row.
2. If You Have Minimal Equipment
- Banded or cable Face Pull. NOTE: Elastic bands come in a variety of resistance. Choose the hardest resistance you can perform this movement with solid posture.
3. If You Have Access to Standard Gym Equipment
- Barbell Bent Over Row. NOTE: Flat back, extended lumbar spine, head and neck aligned, and weight on the heels for the best set up. Keep the bar close to your body as you pull to your belly.