How to prevent shoulder injury in CrossFit

A lot of CrossFitters have shoulder problems. The reason for this is usually a prior imbalance (due to activities of daily life) coupled with poor form in workouts and neglect of substitutional isolated exercises.

Even top athletes like Kristan Clever are not safe from shoulder injuries
Even top athletes like Kristan Clever are not safe from shoulder injuries

Some may argue, that isolated training exercises aren’t “CrossFit”, but neither is Yoga. We still do it, because it helps us stay flexible for CrossFit. Isolated movements can help us train weak muscle groups, that can then contribute to the functional movement.

While an imbalance in the shoulder position won’t necessarily bother a person that doesn’t work out, it will surely show up once some load is added in form of training over a period of time.

Most people would like to say CrossFit inevitably will lead to shoulder injuries.

This is not the case.

If anything, CrossFit can help you identify your weaknesses and give you the opportunity to work on it now before it manifests any longer.


Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t educated enough to detect pathologic movement patterns, the source of the problem or the way out of it. Shoulder problems that occur during CrossFit are a knowledge and responsibility issue, not a safety issue.

You wouldn’t go on a marathon run without training for it. Same is the case for CrossFit movements. If you go to kipping pull ups before being able to do the strict version, you are going to get injured.


I don’t want to get into too much detail, but the typical problem we see is that most people with shoulder issues have tight pecs, anterior delts, trapezius descendens and weak lats, rhomboids, trapezius transversus and posterior delts at the same time.

This is going to lead to inflammation and eventually impingement if left unattended.


What can you do to prevent or treat this situation?

Don’t be afraid of so-called “Bodybuilder” exercises.

  • Take a set of dumbbells and do some rows and reverse flies.
  • Use a cable machine and do straight arm adduction or outer rotation with bent elbows.
  • Do anything that will help your scapula stay back and down.
  • Most importantly, don’t do anything that hurts.

This makes sense, but we all know that sometimes we like to push through the pain just to get the work done.


If your CrossFit Box doesn’t have dumbbells or a cable machine, ask the coaches to show you some substitutions (i.e kettlebells, bodyweight exercises, etc.)


And just keep a few simple things in mind

  • You’re most probably not going to the Games.
  • Don’t forget that we train for life!
  • If you want to do CrossFit for more than 1-2 years, take care of your body!


– Elli

Suprfit-Athlete Elli Hachmann
Suprfit-Athlete Elli Hachmann

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *