Our shoulders are the most mobile joint in our body, allowing us to carry out an endless list of motions. In fact, there are very few movements we make in the course of the day that don’t involve the shoulder joint. That also means they’re highly vulnerable to injury and generally take a long time to heal. Luckily, there are ways to keep your shoulders strong and healthy. Try these tips to stay injury-free.
1. Strengthen those Rotator Cuff Muscles
One of the most common injuries that occurs within the shoulder is a subacromial impingement, which causes pain during rotation — the same motion that lets you throw a ball or reach up to a high shelf. By strengthening the Rotator Cuff muscles (made up of 4 tendons and muscles), it can reduce the chances of shoulder impingement and pain. Try adding some Rotator Cuff exercises to your shoulder workout.
2. Avoid Lateral Raises Above 90 Degrees
A common cause of shoulder pain is doing lateral raises (lifting your arm out to the side and upwards) too high. Some trainers instruct raising the arms to ear-level, therefore above 90 degrees, and many lifters listen for a simple reason — they work. However, when we move our arms up and away from the body, our shoulders need to externally rotate to prevent impingement. The problem is, the most likely point of impingement is at 90 degrees and above and when you add weight to the mix, then you are just asking for trouble.
3. Fix Your Upright Row
Another move associated with shoulder pain is the standing upright row. This is a safe and effective shoulder building exercise, as long as once again it is performed with good form and at a safe range. When doing an upright row, make sure your elbows never go above shoulder height. Or, opt for a different exercise altogether. Try swapping it for a high pull instead to get some other muscles involved in the movement.
4. Change Your Overhead Press
You know that position you assume when you are going to give your training buddy a high five after a great set? Elbow bent 90 degrees, hand raised in the air? It is suggested that you avoid this position during a dumbbell military press, especially if having shoulder issues already. This prevents anterior instability, a condition that has been linked to posterior tightness and several other shoulder injuries more serious than impingement syndrome. Instead, try shoulder presses with a neutral grip (elbows pointed forwards and palms facing you), and perform lat pull-downs in front of you and not behind the neck, to avoid vulnerable positions and reduce the risk of injury.
5. Do What You Mother says
Did your mother, your Nan or other family members ever tell you to stand up straight to make you look taller? Newsflash: It’s essential to long-term shoulder health too! It is key to all exercise, especially in regard to shoulder workouts.. Maintaining good posture is the most stable position for your shoulders to be in, and the more stable they are, the lower the injury risk. So stand tall, shoulders back, engaged and help strengthen those shoulders.
6. Slow Down
Many lifters and trainers know that eccentric muscle action, or “negatives” as they are commonly referred to, are great muscle-building moves. The science goes a little deeper than that, though. Evidence suggests that eccentric training may offer a greater anabolic response at the tissue, which is needed for recovery and repair.. Try slowing down during the lowering phase of your lifts to see increases in size, strength and stability — and a decrease in risk of injury — in your shoulders.
7. Stretch It Out
For up to 24 hours after training, individuals were found to have a loss of mobility. Stretching is important after exercising because when you use a muscle, it contracts and shortens, so in order to maintain flexibility and proper body alignment, it is essential to stretch. Long-term, the effect described above will lead to a loss of mobility if stretching is not performed in conjunction with the exercise.
Maybe your shoulders are aching already or maybe they’re just fine. Either way, the tips listed above are a great way to reduce your risk of injury (or further damage).
Want to work your shoulders then head over to part 2, where I’ll be giving you some shoulder exercises to build into your workout plan.