One of the most common injuries you will see for people with an active lifestyle is shoulder injuries. The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. Its ball-in-socket design allows for the wide range of motion and versatility of your arm. From a functional and performance standpoint this increased mobility is great but the more mobile a joint is the more stability/strengthening exercises you must complete to help reduce the risk of injury. Injuries in the shoulder can also come from overuse patterns (Check our previous article “Break the pattern”). Below we will discuss proactive ways to improve and maintain the health of your shoulders!
Warm up shoulders before you begin a workout
Warming up your rotator cuff before a workout is extremely important to maintain and improve your shoulder health. These exercises should be completed with light resistance bands at a slow tempo. The exercises should not feel extremely strenuous because if the resistance is too heavy, your prime mover muscles will take over the action; leaving out your functional muscles that we are trying to target.
15 reps each workout – 2-3x though each exercise
External Rotation Standing 90 degrees away from the anchor. Keep your elbow tucked into your side as you externally rotate your arm.
Standing 90 degrees away from the anchor. Keep your elbow tucked into your side as you internally rotate your arm.
Hold one band in both hands in front of your body. Keep your palms facing down as you as fly your arms back.
Abducted Arm 90 degree rotations
Connect the band on an anchor at knee height. While facing the band start your arm straight to the side at a 90 degree angle. Maintain your elbow position as you rotate the band back.
Wall Ball Rotations
Start with your arm straight to the side parallel to the ground holding a light ball. Make small circular motions with the ball as you work it up the wall until your hands are straight overhead. Repeat this motion on the way down.
Increase Scapular Function (Shoulder Blades)
Your shoulder blade function and mobility will play a huge role in the range of motion you have in your shoulder. The head of your humerus will sit in a cavity on the lateral side of your shoulder blade called the glenoid cavity (as seen below). This connection allows for the wide range of motion in the shoulder but requires the shoulder blades to move to be successful. These exercises will help improve the function and mobility of your shoulder blades.
Start laying face down on a bench with your arms bent at 45 degrees. From this position pull your arms back by squeezing your shoulder blades together, placing your hands level with your ears.
Pushup Position Scapular Retractors
Begin in the knee pushup position with your hands elevated; you may use 2 same sized medicine balls. From this position let your chest slowly drop down as you squeeze your shoulders low and together.
Increase your mobility
Tight shoulders are typically a sign of tight muscle with a combination of weak opposing muscles. These imbalances can be improved with self-myofascial release techniques (foam rolling) with a lacrosse or tennis ball. Target outside shoulders, chest muscles and work around your shoulder blades. Refer back to our previous article on foam rolling for more detailed instructions. Below are some great mobility workouts to help increase the range of motion in your shoulders. Please know that these are general mobility workouts and are not designed for specific injuries. If you experience pain immediately stop the exercise and seek out a professional for a diagnosis and exercise prescription.
Pole Overhead Rotations
Grab a pole over your head in a wide grip position. Maintain a straight arm position while working the pole in front of your body and behind your head. As you continue to practice this exercise work to increase your motion back and move your hands closer together.
Shoulder Retraction to Press
Begin with pole overhead gripping 6 inches outside of your shoulders. Make a pulling down motion as the pole comes behind your head toward your shoulders. Squeeze you shoulder blades down and together at the bottom.
Grip the pole overhead shoulder-width apart while locking out your arms. Your feet should be shoulder width apart, toes pointed forward. Complete a squat motion while keeping your hands pushed back behind your head.
Top Sun Sals
Begin with arms bent and palms facing you. Work your hands down to your side with palms facing forward. While keeping your arms straight work your hands to an overhead position. Continue to work this motion up and down while keeping your arms back as far as possible.
Hope these tips will help you improve the function and health of your shoulders. Please remember to add these to your regular routine even if you do not have pain or dysfunction. Also keep your workouts fresh and avoid taking too many repetitive-type classes in a row to avoid a big injury!