If you’re reading this, you’ve probably experienced shoulder pain or know someone who has. The most common injuries people suffer from are at the joints: knees, hips, and shoulders.
Why? Because these are the places where our bodies have the widest range of motion and the most tendons, nerves, bones and ligaments connecting together. Thus, joints are like traffic intersections in a big city. They’ve got many ways to turn and many avenues for collision. Plus, the shoulder is the most flexible and complex of all!
For most adults, it’s not a matter of if, but when you’ll have shoulder pain or injury.
Now, I don’t want this to stop you from training your shoulders. Pain and injury are the number one reason people quit their exercise programs early and lose progress. But, it doesn’t have to stop you. In fact, research has shown- and I’ve seen time and time again- that many injuries are best recovered through movement.
An injury is just an opportunity to learn something. It simply means we need to look at the way we train a little differently. We need to focus on strengthening and gaining better movement control of our weak spots. We need to slow down and refocus.
Fortunately, most shoulder pain and injuries are just as fix-able as they are common.
In this article, I’ll go over two exercises that you can start doing right away to strengthen your shoulder cuff and scapular retractors. You can also use these exercises to train a shoulder that is currently in pain (so long as your doctor has approved you for training). The cuff and scapular retractor muscles stabilize your shoulder in big movements like the bench press and chin up. Strengthening them will help you progress your training more effectively.
Ideally, do these exercises 2 to 4 times per week, for 10 to 12 reps each arm. You’ll want to use light weights (2 to 10 lbs). The shoulder cuff is made of small stabilizer muscles that are best trained through many repetitions at a high frequency and controlled tempo, rather than heavy and fast.
I’ll describe how you can count tempo to get the most out of each exercise in the videos that follow. The key is to go slowly during the lowering phase of the movement, so that you are strengthening the slow-twitch fibers of your posterior chain. Take 3 to 4 seconds on the way down.
Here they are:
This exercise strengthens the rotator cuff muscles, such as the supraspinatus (a common site of injury). You can do this movement side-lying or standing. To create balance, you’ll want to train your shoulder in a variety of positions and angles, but be sure to only train one movement at a time before moving on to the next.
Key Notes To This Movement:
– Keep your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle
– Keep your elbow in line with your body
– Don’t let your shoulder “dump forward”
– Keep your wrist neutral
– Maintain a smooth controlled motion (no “jerking” or “forcing” the movement)
This exercise strengthens the lower traps and trains coordination of the scapular retractors. These muscles help pull your shoulders down and back and point your chest up for good posture. If you have forward rounded shoulders, this will help pull them back up.
Key Notes To This Movement:
– Rest your head on your opposite arm and keep a straight spine
– Retract your scapula so the weight moves vertically before you start each rep
– Lift up and out as if you’re passing the weight to someone in front of you
– Again, no forcing or jerking. Keep the movement smooth.
Thanks for reading! If you found this article valuable please share on social media, or with someone you know who wants to have happier shoulders or who would enjoy the read. You can help your friends and family feel good and get stronger just like you. If you want to connect or are wondering about how Beometry trainers can help you take your health and fitness to the next level, fill out a form here and we’ll be in touch! ~ Coach Michelle
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