How to Prevent Shoulder Impingement in the CrossFit Athlete

The shoulder is a complicated structure. As I wrote in my CrossFit Journal Article “The Optimal Shoulder”  over 80% of CrossFit workouts involve a shoulder movement. If you are a CrossFit athlete, your shoulders better be performing optimally if you want to stay healthy and performing at your best!


Shoulder health and performance is reliant on multiple factors including:

  • The rotator cuff’s ability to stabilize the shoulder
  • The scapula (shoulder blade) properly rotating upward during shoulder elevation
  • Thoracic spine mobility (Lots of exercises for this in my recent article here)
  • Shoulder mobility


If any of these factors are off, the shoulder is put at an increased risk of injury. The most common shoulder injury I see in CrossFit athletes is shoulder impingement. In this condition, the soft tissues of the shoulder at pinched between the humeral head and acromion. This results in pain, weakness, decreased mobility and ultimately, poor performance. If let to continue, this can progress to more serious problems including a tear of the rotator cuff muscles.


The following are my five favorite exercises to prevent shoulder impingement in the CrossFit athlete.


  1. Half Turkish Get Ups with Rotations

This exercise is great for training shoulder stability and strengthening the rotator cuff. I perform 5 rotations at each level, 3 total sets.


  1. Addressing Shoulder Internal Rotation

Shoulder internal rotation is an often-ignored mobility piece…and LOTS of CrossFit athletes have problems with it! Find out how to assess your mobility and treat it in my guest article on


  1. Prone Scapula Angels

This absolutely brutal exercise strengthens the upper back and posterior rotator cuff muscles. A great exercise for BulletProofing you shoulders!


  1. Foam Rolling Up Wall

Several research studies have suggested that proper scapula movement is essential for a stable base to the entire shoulder complex. When the scapula doesn’t move correctly, upper body power is decreased and risk of injury is greatly increased. This simple move does a great job of activating the muscles around the scapula to restore proper movement.


  1. Thoracic Spine Opener

This exercise opens up the shoulders and the thoracic spine.


If you are serious about preventing injuries, optimizing mobility, and performing at your best, be sure to check out my  “BulletProof Mobility” Warm Up series.

CrossFit Mobility

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