One of the greatest issues facing athletes and weightlifters is the ability to stay healthy while lifting weights and training at a high level. The most common set back I see in the gym is a shoulder injury. If you have played sports at any level or lifted weights for any length of time you’ve probably experienced some type of shoulder pain. part due to the way people train and part due to the nature of the shoulder joint itself. Before we get into the training issues and some ways to fix them, let me give you some background info on the shoulder.
The shoulder is an extremely complex joint made up of three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm) as well as the associated muscles, ligaments and tendons. The humorous loosely attaches to the scapula in a ball and socket type of joint that allows the arm to rotate in a circular manner or to hinge up and away from the body. The joint must be mobile enough to do a wide range of dynamic movements (think throwing a baseball), but also stable enough to lift heavy objects and push and pull. This compromise between mobility and stability opens up the door for a large number of shoulder issues.
Now, when most people think of the muscles of the shoulder, they probably think of the deltoids (anterior/front, middle, and posterior/rear) and the traps. While these are the biggest muscles of the shoulder and the ones that give that area of the body it’s shape, there are in fact, many smaller muscles that are just as crucial to shoulder movement and health. The Rhomboids and levator scapulae are muscles in the upper back that if left untrained allow the shoulder to slump forward and rotate inward - the classic “benchers shoulder”. The muscles of the Rotator Cuff are the supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus, and trees minor, all of which contribute to the stability of the shoulder. Often in our training, these muscles get overlooked and take a back seat to traditional shoulder exercises for the deltoids. Let’s face it - a stability based exercise for the tiny rotator cuff muscle subscapularis doesn’t sound as sexy as doing a heavy shoulder press to build massive front delts. But it’s this line of thinking that leads to imbalances and injury.
Here’s the solution. I’m going to teach you six exercises that are crucial to shoulder health and stability. I’m willing to bet that you will be amazed at how challenging these movements can be and how weak some of those small supporting-cast muscles have become due to neglecting them in your training. The first three exercises I recommend doing daily as pre-hab. Incorporate them into your normal warm up (which should already include some good dynamic stretching!) and make a habit of completing the circuit before you pick up your first weight. The other three exercises are a little more strength based, and I recommend doing them twice per week, usually after your normal shoulder and back workouts.
Daily Shoulder Prehab Warm up Circuit
*complete one round of entire circuit before each workout
Shoulder Stability and Strength Circuit
A1. Serrano Press - 5 reps each side
A2. Face Pulls - 10-20 reps
A3. Snow Angels - 12 reps
x 3 rounds
*include after your normal lifting routine on Back and Shoulder days
Now I’ve given you the tools to fix any imbalances you may have built over the years and also prevent any future injuries from occurring. But the real key to this shoulder stability program is like anything else - you have to be consistent! Once you make this a regular staple of training your shoulders will feel healthier and those little “tweaks” in training will not happen as often. Think of it as “mowing the lawn” - you may not notice it when it’s done, but you will definitely notice when you haven’t been doing it.
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Please note that sizes are approximate. Chest is measured just below the arms and length is measured from the high point of the collar to the bottom of the hem.