Sunday, January 3, 2010

Training Shoulders Properly

I am seeing more shoulder injuries every day, and I firmly believe this is the result of improper lifting.  Let's consider the rotator cuff and look at what exercises can help strengthen and protect it while lifting.

gave a brief description of the rotator cuff and its function last spring, so let's recap: rotator cuff muscles are responsible for keeping the glenohumeral joint in place during shoulder depression.

Here's how that works.  During a shoulder press, the rotator cuff group takes over as we lower our arms and as our elbows drop below 90 degrees. We hold the weight there for a second then we start our lift upward.  The bottom end of this lift is also more rotator (supraspinatus) than middle deltoid. The supraspinatus is a much smaller muscle than the middle deltoid and, therefore, can't take the same amount of stress.

Remember, also, that rotator cuff muscles are part of the shoulder girdle, and three of the four rotator cuff muscles originate behind the scapula.

For as much shoulder lifting as we do, we have to remember to treat our rotator cuff muscles as a separate muscle group. I have found very few people perform specific exercises for their rotator cuff muscles.

Here are a few tips on how to safely strengthen your rotator cuff muscles:
  • With light weight, practice a shoulder press from the very bottom position: elbows at your side and hands by your shoulders.
  • Using a band or light dumbbell, keep your elbow tight to your body and move your arm from your stomach to the outside of your body.
  • Lift light dumbbells and, with elbows bent, lift the weights parallell to the floor. Then slowly rotate the weights upward from the shoulder.
  • Include rows and rear delt exercises in your workout. This way, the rhomboids and rear deltoids assist in keeping the scapula in place — which in turn aids in keeping the rotators in place.
Protect your rotator cuffs by exercising properly.  Repairing is time-consuming, costly and never guaranteed, so avoid injuries in the first place.

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