(follow the links provided if you need to reacquaint yourself), now time for some fun: building shoulders of steel. Following are three rules for whipping your shoulders into shape and preventing injury.
Since the shoulder sacrifices stability for mobility ensuring the muscles are properly balanced and well suited for the job is crucial. Oftentimes we delve into a workout overly anxious to have sweat pour down our face and skip the warm up.
RULE #1: DO NOT SKIP THE WARM UP
Like any great infomercial guarantee, the warm up takes just five minutes. That’s all. In the grand scheme of your workout session five minutes is not asking too much especially when you consider that muscles forget how long they used to stretch and will bunch up. Over time the starting point decreases placing excess strain on the joints leading to imbalance and injury. Work your range of motion (ROM) by warming up the joints with arm circles, the ">egyptian stretch, and halo’s. (follow links for representation of each stretch/exercise)
RULE #2: USE YOUR BODY FIRST
Building a good foundation starts with the bare bones of it all. Why add weight to faulty movement patterns? That is just screaming for injury. Supporting your own body can be taxing enough and gives opportunity to ensure proper execution of a movement before adding weights. Some great bodyweight exercises for shoulder strength are: planks and push ups. (Should your shoulder be on the mend from an injury start with incline push ups) (Follow links above for execution of each)
RULE #3 USE IT OR LOSE IT
Ok, ok cliché’s are lame. This one transcends so many facets of life it must be included! If you do not lift things overhead then the muscles and other tissues of the shoulder deteriorate to a point where you lose the ability to raise your arm. Clearly that is worst case scenario, but the muscles thrive off a good challenge and if left without that push they begin to lose the ability to function normally. William Pardon Bowen states in his book Applied Anatomy and Kinesiology (1917), “continuous use of the arms in lower planes without even occasional uipward movement…modifies the tissues so that they no longer permit the normal elevation.” You may not notice it immediately, however over time lifting your arm to be in line with your ear could be a workout by itself! This is where the shoulder, or military, press comes in. The kettlebell shoulder press mimics natural movement of the joint and strengthens the latissimus dorsi muscle while encouraging the joint to stay in socket throughout the movement. Because dumbbells have the weight evenly distributed the ability to compensate through engaging the trapezius muscle or straining the rotator cuff musculature by bringing the joint out of socket increases. The kettlebell truly shines as a rehab tool or preventative tool for the shoulder for this reason alone. For instructions on performing a kettlebell shoulder press, ">follow this link.
So there you are. Three rules = three guides for whipping your shoulders into shape and preventing injury so you don’t lose time at the gym. Now go do!
Kerry M. Davis LMT, CIMT, SFG