5 things for bulletproof shoulders

September 19, 2016

Everyone has a mate with a “stuffed” shoulder. As avid readers of this blog (isn’t everyone!?) you would have read here that most of the time they haven’t really. The shoulder is such a mobile structure, and so reliant on muscle control and coordination for stability, that pain has a dramatic effect on how much movement and strength you can exert on it. Which is why rule number one is if it hurts, don’t do it. Give us a call instead. The massive range of motion also means that if we will gradually lose our ability to move through this range if we decrease the demand on our shoulders – literally move it or lose it. So here are 5 things you can do to maintain/improve the available range and control of shoulder movement

1. Move

Anything that is not sitting or standing still. Even just getting out of the chair more will help. Your shoulder swings off the back of your rib cage, if your back is stiff, your shoulder is limited. A loss of range with more complex tasks can easily turn into shoulder pain under load.

2. Perfect your starting position

Now you have great back and shoulder range, you want to be getting the most out of your muscles. The muscles around your shoulder blade, and your rotator cuff that stabilises the shoulder joint, work better in their favourite positions. No doubt you’ve been told to get your shoulders back, or down, or wherever and keep them there, but all these structures are designed to move. So all you can really do is get really good at knowing where to START. And this is everything, the curves in your back, your shoulder blade, your head – especially with work postures, weightlifting, running.

3. Train as you move

Strengthening your shoulder muscles, like all muscles, should be based on what you need them to do – specificity for your sport. If you just want them a bit bigger, or better, think of how you use them. Standing presses, you bet. Lateral raises, not really unless you are doing your best bird impression. Throwers need to be good at throwing, but the rest of us need to be good at pushing and pulling up, down, forward and back. As basics go, that’s a good start.

4. Grip it and rip it

Anything that you are grabbing with your hands – bars, bands, bells – grab hard with your hand. This causes improved activity in your rotator cuff, and therefore, a more stable and efficient shoulder. This goes hand in hand with a good starting position – bad posture and big grip strength often overloads your elbow tendons.

5. Bodyweight exercise progressions

At least some of your exercise program, if not all of it, should be you pushing and pulling yourself around against gravity. These are the ultimate whole-body, or “core stability” exercises. Without getting to physics nerdy, the fact your hand is fixed and you’re moving the torso changes the force transfer in your shoulder girdle, and the fact that if you cheat you tend to fall over means it trains a better movement pattern

The timing of this is fortuitous, I’ve just been nominated by Vik Hawksley from Anatomy in Motion for the 22 day push up challenge. I’ve decided to show progression of the standard push up from easy to hard, and to where I’m likely to fall over. But that’s cool – from there I can keep working on it. Like us on facebook – Newcastle Performance Physiotherapy – to see me fall over

Share with your friends who love dumbbell shrugs and lateral raises

Until next time