Shoulders are strong but vulnerable. The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine reports more than 1.4 million shoulder arthroscopies are performed worldwide each year. And Loyola University Health System researchers are tracking “skyrocketing” incidents of shoulder replacements in the U.S. This is in part caused by aging Baby Boomers. It is also due to the fact that shoulders, in general, are susceptible to injury due to body mechanics. The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body and therefore it is the joint that is the most prone to damage. Overhead reaching, repetitive motion, lifting heavy objects, and bad posture are common causes of shoulder injuries.
We often take our shoulders for granted. Shoulder injuries can be extremely disruptive to our normal routines. For many people, shoulder problems lead to unpaid time off of work and challenges caring for families. Make sure that shoulder conditioning is included in your workout routine. Keeping your shoulders healthy and safe requires focus and persistence, but it can pay off in improved levels of overall fitness and fewer injuries.
It’s All About Symmetry
We can learn a lot from bodybuilders. If you want big shoulders, BodyBuilding.com recommends a “back-to-front” approach to build muscle mass safely. At the heart of this strategy is advice we should all follow when exercising our shoulders: be mindful of symmetry. The muscles around the shoulder joint must provide equal degrees of strength, flexibility, and movement. If one muscle group over or underperforms in relation to another, strain and injury can result.
First, a proper warm-up is key. BodyBuilding coaches, “Start each session by training the muscles at the back of the shoulder and then progress to training the muscles of the middle deltoid, and then finish the workout by training the front of the shoulder.” This provides balance and symmetry between muscle groups, which lessens your risk of injury.
Shoulders inherently are unstable joints. Through careful, regular exercise, it is possible to strengthen the muscles of the shoulder joint to build stability. The more stable a joint is, the better equipped it is to sustain repetitive motion, strain, and even falls or accidents.
Getting Into a Shoulder Routine
Not all shoulder workouts are the same. If you are recovering from surgery, design your exercise routine to target each of the muscle groups in the upper back, upper arm, and the shoulder joint itself. Under the direction of a physical therapist, work evenly on each muscle group for approximately six weeks. Three workouts a week are sufficient to gradually rebuild strength and flexibility.
If you currently have healthy shoulders and your goal is to enhance muscle tone and strength, the following exercises are typically safe and effective.
- Standard and side planks
- Downward dog
- Inverted push-ups
- Floor press
What to Avoid?
When it comes to your shoulders, never push through the pain. If you experience any pain or discomfort in your shoulders when working out, take a break or switch to another exercise.
Avoid overstretching. Even if you can manipulate your shoulder into an extreme position without pain, don’t do it. Pain and injury can occur suddenly and catch you off guard.
Never jump into a workout cold. You should always warm up your shoulders and get your heart rate up before launching into your full routine. Physical therapists recommend small, medium, and large arm circles with your arms horizontally extended from your side as an effective warm-up before your workout.
The shoulder experts at MOSH can support you in injury prevention, conditioning, and therapy. We are available to answer questions and provide advice. Contact a MOSH shoulder expert today.