It definitely goes without saying, but you use your shoulders everyday. Even though you’re touching things with your hands, it is often your shoulders that are doing the work. Every time you twist, reach, press or pull you are utilising those big muscles that build up your shoulder.
The shoulder is a broad term which refers to the scapular (shoulder blade) and all the muscles/tendons/ligaments that attach it to your arm and your back ribs. Anyone who has ever experienced shoulder pain will tell you that as soon as you develop any discomfort in this area, you will truly appreciate how much you really need your shoulders.
If we don’t look after our shoulders we risk missing out on our full range of motion due to stiffness, which can have a knock on effect as the rest of your body begins to compensate for this, be it in the gym, playing sports or just in your every day life.
Now, I’m not qualified to tell you how or why you have developed shoulder pain, but I will always believe that prevention is better than cure, which is why I have developed a care routine for myself and my clients designed to keep my shoulders in great working condition.
For those of you who are trying to make some gains in the gym, packing on muscle without working on flexibility and mobility will make you more and more fixed with every bit of new muscle tissue. Not only is this going to limit growth potential but it could also lead to postural problems. A commonly seen example would be internally rotated shoulders (head dropping forward) which can come from tightness of particular shoulder muscles and uneven training.
Basically, in order to keep your shoulders painless and working at their optimum, you have to keep all of your connective tissues as free as possible to allow for full articulation of the joint. There are ways to do this including physiotherapy, regular massages, sufficient warm ups and adequate stretching, all of which will encourage the blood flow around that area. The nutrients from your blood will be pumped through all of your muscles, tissues, ligaments and tendons for quick recovery and maximum health of the body part. The healthier the shoulder, the lower the risk of injury.
There are essentially 3 key stages to my prevention plan.
1. Warm up your joints through their full range of motion. Get every part of your shoulder warm to increase blood flow and ready for the workout.
2. Perform weight-bearing prehab exercises that will strengthen and wake up those muscles to keep the joints stabilised and strong. The aim is to not only concentrate on the big, obvious muscles, they tend to be over worked enough, but to target the small, critical muscles that maintain the joint is functioning smoothly and strong.
3. Stretching post-workout or on days off from training to aid the recovery process should be part of our modern-day lifestyles to not only reduce soreness but make our bodies feel better and improve our posture. When you next train your body with thank you for spending some TLC on it.
3 Mobility Exercises to start your shoulder care routine:
Use a stick, broom or band.
Take an overhand wide grip with elbows locked, then have it in front of your hips ready to bring up and over your head down to your lower back and repeat 10-20 times.
As the stretch becomes easier over time move in your grip whilst not allowing the elbows to bend during the rep. If you can’t keep the elbow(s) locked move your hands wider till you can perform it correctively.
Kneeling Thoracic and Lat Stretch
Take a chair or gym bench something slightly above knee height and firm.
Next kneeling down on your knees place your elbows on the bench and leave enough room to push your head in-between.
Then relax your head and chest, sitting your hips back. Take some deep breaths while pressing your chest towards the ground feeling a stretch down your triceps and lats as well as your t-spine. Try to extend your upper spine.
You can either hold still, or moving in and out the stretch relaxing and pressing down deeper into the stretch further.
Band Pull Aparts
This corrective exercise is great to strengthen and warm up the posterior muscles prior to upper body workouts, along with grooving the movement pattern (scapular retraction) that is highly used common exercise like rows.
Hold an overhand grip near the end of the resistant band. Stand tall and straight with your core tight. With arms straight at chest height, squeeze the shoulder blades together, touching the band on your chest. Keep the head still as you pull apart the band and imagine moving from the elbows rather than wrists.
These are just three exercises to get you started on your shoulder-care journey. Of course, if you have anymore questions regarding any of the information/advice in this article then do get in touch via my social media pages or using my email address- I’d love to hear from you!