By Myprotein Writer
The shoulder joint is very complex – of which it can easily become damaged given the credible amount of muscles running throughout. muscles you would expect like those for your chest and back, and also those you might not expect like your biceps and triceps.
Furthermore to make matters even more complicated the shoulder joint isn’t always very durable, as it works like a golf ball sitting on a tee, when the ball sits in its place it’s stable, but when there is strain put onto the joint the ball can quite easily slip.
Causes of Shoulder Injury
When we look at injuries and shoulder pain the two most common causes are:
✓ A pull to one of the deltoid muscles (just like you might get on any other muscle)
✓ A tear/damage to the rotator cuff.
If you have pulled the muscle you will need to make sure you rest the area and apply liberal amounts of ice to help slow the breakdown of the muscle. However, if you have damaged the rotator cuffs it can be slightly more difficult to rest.
Rotator cuffs are muscles which sit just underneath the shoulder blade and their job is to control the rotation of your shoulders: when these are damaged you tend to feel a sharp pain when you move the arm in question.
This may seem a bit old school but if you get pain you need to make sure you apply ice as soon as possible, this will help to reduce the breakdown of the muscle and allow it to repair faster. Cold gels are also good for when you can’t use the real thing.
One very common problem with people who train with weights is that they get very tight shoulders. This can be good for the joints stability but poor for the mobility of the joint. One way to test your shoulder mobility is by putting your back flat against a wall and raising your arms above your head. If your back stays flat on the wall you should be fine, but if your back starts to arch you need to get stretching!
✓ For me the best way to promote good shoulder mobility is by getting a long pole or band, hold it with an overhand grip and lift it over your head in a circular motion. Once you get to straight overhead you need to continue so your hands end up behind you.
✓ If you haven’t done this before make sure you use a very wide grip as you will need to start yourself off gently and build up from it. This move promotes a full range of motion in the shoulders in a controlled manner.
Now this point may sound more like something a builder will talk about when building a new house but the idea is pretty much the same.
You need to make sure that not only your shoulders are strong but everything else that goes with them is strong as well. For example, when you perform an overhead dumbbell press you should be able to set yourself up with the dumbbells instead of having someone help you. I often see people grab super heavy dumbbells only to get someone to help them pull them to shoulder height before they start pressing.
✓ It’s all well and good being able to press a lot of weight but if the supporting core muscles around the area aren’t strong enough to put them at your shoulders what is to stop the dumbbells falling backwards and dislocating the shoulder.
✓ If you have this problem, drop the weight and work on setting yourself up, your shoulders can thank me later.
When we go to the gym we all spend at least 10 minutes warming everything through properly, right…
Truth is it is much easier to do a few shoulder circles and then a couple of light sets to warm up before getting started. Whilst this may warm up the deltoids, you are missing the unseen muscles which can cause you a lot of problems if you neglect them.
✓ Get warm before starting a session and, to make sure you aren’t plagued by injury, use the rotator cuff movements later in this article for a good warm-up.
You don’t have to start doing loads of fancy new movements to keep your shoulders healthy; adapt what you do now to keep everything in tip top condition. Please also remember that these movements are to promote healthy shoulders, not how to build them.
Dumbbell chest press
Don’t worry I haven’t lost the plot: yes, we are talking shoulders today and yes, I know this is a chest movement but when we train the chest it uses a huge amount of anterior deltoid (the front of the shoulder) and this can cause problems when we aren’t careful.
This is really easy to adapt. Instead of pressing with your arms at a 90 degree angle, drop your elbows down so it’s more of a 45 degree angle with your thumbs pointing towards your face (half way between normal chest press and a close grip bench press). This takes a great deal of strain off your front delts and actually isolate the chest more. Healthier shoulders and better chest, what’s not to love!
Again I haven’t gone insane, this is about shoulder health and when you front squat correctly you actually set your body up for great shoulders.
When you front squat you have to keep your chest high to make sure you don’t fall forward. This promotes a good position for the upper portion of your spine and that in turn gives you a better posture. As soon as you have a higher chest your shoulders naturally roll backwards.
This means you aren’t putting unnecessary strain on your shoulders and traps and that helps keep them healthy. If you press on your traps now how do they feel? I would imagine there is a bit of tension. Now raise your chest up and let your shoulders fall back, if you press on your traps now they will probably feel a lot softer, this is what you need all the time!
Rotator cuff training
The health of each rotator cuff is very important as it’s the cause of most shoulder pain – which, every year, sends about two million people to the doctors in America alone.
There are countless variations of ways to work your rotator cuffs. The most basic way is to use a cable station in the gym and get the pulley in line with your stomach, select the top plate (yes this is not something you want to use much weight with) and grab the handle.
✓ You need to tuck your elbow into your side and turn your body so you are facing at a 90 degree angle from the cable. Then turn your hand into your body keeping your elbow tucked in, once you have done this slowly control the cable back to the starting angle and repeat.
Take Home Message
The big thing to remember when you’re working towards healthy shoulders is that it’s not all about building big strong shoulders: it is just as much to do with posture, mobility and good injury recovery which is just as important as the reps and sets you do in the weight room.
Word of warning: depending on the injury it is highly recommended to consult a doctor or a physiotherapist to get to the root cause of the problem, and before you try to fix a serious issue yourself.
Ben White | @greybearfitness