Prevent Shoulder Injuries With A Well-Rounded Training Program

Angie coaching the Geared Up team in an early morning swim clinic, pre-COVID, teaching the Geared Up team healthy movements for healthy shoulders!

Shoulders play an integral role in many of our daily activities.

They are also highly susceptible to injury.

It is therefore imperative that we do everything possible to keep our shoulders strong and injury free.

Consider that the average American spends a majority of their day performing forward focused activities that load the muscles of the shoulder.

This includes tasks as simple as sitting at a desk or driving a car.

Always moving with a forward focus creates problems as the shoulders become tight through the chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor) while at the same time becoming week and overstretched through the muscles that pull the shoulders back (scapular retractors).

This tightening and weakening respectively can lead to an exaggerated curvature of the normal spine resulting in a condition known as kyphosis.

Along with daily activities, there are a number of situations that can exacerbate this imbalance.

Despite the best of intentions, some of this is self inflicted.

When working the shoulders, people often only focus on the chest (through push-ups, planks, bench press type exercises) and the back (lat pull-downs), or more simply, exercises with muscles they can see in the mirror.

However, because the chest and back comprise such a large portion of the upper body, having them as your primary exercise focus can internally rotate the shoulder.

This means that while doing these exercises might make you feel like you are developing a stronger upper body, you’re actually pulling the head of the big arm bone (the humeral head) further forward in the joint socket and into a more internally rotated position.

To prevent this from happening and to maintain pain free range of motion, make certain you are stretching the chest and back muscles ensuring adequate mobility in both areas.

To counteract this pulling of the shoulder forward, strengthen the external shoulder rotator muscles, commonly known as the rotator cuff.

A good rule of thumb when strength training is the 3:2 rule.

This means that when you exercise, you incorporate 3 back or pull exercises (mid row/ lat pull down/ pull ups) for every 2 chest or push exercises (chest press/ push up’s).

Finally, keep in mind that for healthy, strong shoulders, size does not matter.

Big shoulders aren’t necessarily strong shoulders.

Spending lots of time working superficial muscles mat actually be a determent to overall shoulder function and strength.

Fixing yourself in a single plane of movement against a fixed load (like a bench press) is unlikely to stimulate deep muscle stabilizers.

For better shoulder function, it behooves you to incorporate exercise variations using balls and dumbbells on differing surfaces in multiple planes (ie, lateral raise on a bosu disc).

Remember to always train smarter, not harder and practice with purpose.

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