Debunking Archaic Rehab Myths: Strength Training To Heal An Injured Shoulder

Debunking Archaic Rehab Myths: Strength Training To Heal An Injured Shoulder

When faced with a SLAP tear in your shoulder, your instinct might be to avoid exercise because of the pain. However, we offer a transformative approach inspired by the elite physical therapists who treat professional athletes. Our methods focus on getting you back to your active life swiftly, avoiding surgery whenever possible.

This week, we delve into the core principles of a strategic rehabilitation approach that—unlike conventional methods suggesting rest—prioritizes maintaining muscle mass and overall strength through optimal load management and a progressive mindset.

The Misconception of Avoiding Exercise

One of the most pervasive myths about SLAP tear rehabilitation is the idea that all exercise should be avoided if it causes pain. This misconception overlooks the fundamental importance of continuing strength training, albeit with modifications. 

Avoiding exercise can lead to a loss of muscle mass, not just in the injured shoulder but throughout the body. This muscle atrophy complicates the rehabilitation process, making it harder to return to pre-injury fitness levels.

Moreover, studies on age-related muscle loss show that muscle atrophy doesn’t occur linearly as we might assume. Instead, it happens sporadically during periods of inactivity. This further supports our approach of not encouraging abstinence from exercise. Instead, we strongly advocate for a continued focus on strength training during the rehab period.

Manipulating Workouts to Manage Load

The crux of our approach lies in manipulating workout variables such as intensity, volume, and range of movement to adequately manage load.

  • Intensity refers to the weight being lifted.
  • Volume encompasses the number of reps, sets, exercises, and workouts completed during a training phase.
  • Range of movement involves the degree to which joints move during an exercise, such as the depth of a barbell back squat.

Adjusting these variables allows you to continue working out without exacerbating pain. For instance, if lifting a 20-pound dumbbell causes pain, reducing the weight to 10 pounds or even 5 pounds might enable pain-free exercise.

However, intensity is often not the best variable to manipulate during rehabilitation. We have found that adjusting tempo and range of movement are usually the most effective strategies.

In the early stages of rehabilitation, the intensity might need to be so low, or the range so limited, that it feels negligible. However, this is a crucial step. Adjusting the load to suit the compromised area helps avoid reinforcing negative pain responses in the nervous system.

Pain-free workouts teach the body that lifting weights is safe, gradually easing muscle tightness and inflammation, and increasing the pain-free range of motion.

Embracing a Progressive and Positive Mindset

Our methodology is rooted in the principles of progressive overload and maintaining a positive mindset. It’s essential to view the rehabilitation process as an opportunity to strengthen not just the injured shoulder but the entire body. Shifting focus to different areas of fitness, such as lower body strength or cardiovascular health, can keep the rehabilitation process engaging and rewarding.

This mindset shift transforms the rehabilitation journey from a frustrating period of limitation to a time of holistic improvement and growth. By embracing this approach, you can maintain your motivation and continue making progress, even when certain exercises are temporarily off-limits.


Rehabilitating a SLAP tear doesn't mean sidelining all physical activity. By following our proven strategies shared in this article, and the supporting Youtube series available here, derived from elite sports physical therapists, you can continue to exercise safely and effectively. 

The key lies in manipulating exercise intensity, establishing a pain-free baseline, and progressively increasing the load. Monitoring baseline pain and adjusting rehabilitation variables ensures a dynamic and responsive approach.

This methodology not only aids in shoulder recovery but also promotes overall fitness and well-being. Embracing a progressive mindset transforms rehabilitation into an opportunity for holistic improvement. 

If you’re looking for a comprehensive SLAP tear rehab strategy, consider the following three resources that provide detailed guidance on how to navigate your rehabilitation journey, ensuring you return to the activities you love stronger and more resilient:

👉 Download our free SLAP tear rehab blueprint and learn how to rehab without surgery.

👉 Join our Slap Tear Rehab Coaching Program and let us tailor a rehab program for you.

👉 Watch Rad’s “Rehab Your Shoulder FAST Without Surgery” series on our Youtube.

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