3 Tips to Keep Your Shoulders Healthy

The shoulder is very unique in that it is the most mobile joint in the body and is used in nearly every human sporting action. And due to its large range of motion (ROM), the shoulder can end up in some highly stressful, unstable, and injury-prone positions.

Whether your sport involves throwing, an overhead motion, or any kind of power output from the shoulders, you can rest assured that avoiding shoulder injury is key to a successful athletic career. @@Here are 3 weight room tips to save your shoulders and keep them as functional as possible.@@

1. Don’t Overload the Front of the Shoulder

While the bench press is a great tool for developing upper-body strength, it can be overused due to its prevalence in weight room culture. Left to their own devices, young athletes (mostly males) will probably bench press every day.

The question “How much do you bench?” is usually a way to try and compare strength between any two athletes. However, overloading the frequency of horizontal pressing movements can lead to muscular imbalances that can negatively affect shoulder function.

Add this to poor postural mechanics and you have a recipe for developing shoulder impingement.
That doesn’t mean you should fear the bench press or avoid it altogether, but we must understand that proper athletic function requires muscular balance, and it is more important to have functional strength than JUST strength. Be aware of your posture when sitting or standing and make the necessary corrections to avoid ugly shoulder positions.

In the weight room, balance your pressing movements with pulling movements, and implement specific external rotation exercises to help maintain balanced shoulder musculature.

2. Develop Scapular Strength 

The scapulae (or shoulder blades) are inherently important when talking about shoulder function. They are the foundation for both mobility and stability in dynamic shoulder actions.

Maintaining good scapular ROM and developing scapular strength in stable positions is key for optimal performance and injury prevention. Throwing a baseball, for example, places huge importance on having strength within scapular control. When your scapular muscles are weak or inhibited, it’s like trying to shoot a cannon on a canoe.

Pull-ups, reverse flys, and bent rows are all great tools to strengthen the muscles that control the scapulae and can be performed with a band or weights. Crossover Symmetry is also a phenomenal weight room product that specializes in all things shoulder-related.

When it comes to the weight room, it’s all about the programming of your strength training. Be sure to utilize a program that promotes both performance and injury prevention methods.



3. Roll Out + Stretch Your Lats

Tight lats can limit your overhead ROM. Reducing some of that tightness can free up your scapulae, which in turn can improve shoulder mobility and allow for better overhead positions.

Increasing your overhead ROM can help reduce the amount of anterior stress on the deltoids and help the shoulder function optimally. Many strength coaches avoid overhead movements, but this diminishes the amount of strength stimulus that can be introduced to the shoulder and leave it as a weak link in the kinetic chain.

Keeping the lats supple can help to keep shoulder ROM high, preventing the movement compensations that can over-stress either the low back or the front of the shoulder.

@@Foam rolling and static stretching both have solid benefits for maintaining good positions.@@ If you haven’t rolled out your lats before, be ready for a rude awakening (you might want to bite down on some leather).

For seasoned lat rollers, a stronger and more precise pressure may be needed. Lacrosse balls or softballs are some of the best tools for intensive mobility work. Mobilizing your lats both with the arm overhead and in an externally rotated position (like a front-rack position) can help keep your shoulders working optimally. Move well first, then move well under load. 

Conclusion

Maintaining shoulder health and function is necessary to keep you playing at the top of your game. Proper planning of your weight training and focusing on a balanced approach to strength can go a long way in keeping you at the top of your game.


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Jace Derwin is one of the regular contributors to the Volt blog. He is a CSCS-certified strength coach, the lead Sport Performance Specialist at Volt and a Lift Big Eat Big athlete.
Learn more about Jace and read his other posts | @VoltCoachJace