If you have suffered with a shoulder injury or experience shoulder pain then this article is for you.
Firstly, I’d like to say that without being there to assess you it is always hard to recommend exactly what you need to do but you should find the following very useful…
1 – Mobilise Tight Muscles
The shoulder is a very busy and complicated joint.
There are 4 main joints:
And, many muscles: Rhomboids, Traps, Levator Scapulae, Serratus Anterior, Biceps, Triceps, Lats, Pecs + the 4 Rotator Cuff muscles.
All of these muscles and joints must work together in order to both stabilise the joints as well as move the arm.
Bad exercise selection or improper technique can not only result in injury of one of these muscles but also an imbalance in the muscular system.
Certain muscles including the rhomboids and lower traps can become long and weak whereas other muscles like the upper traps and pecs can become short and tight.
Spend time working on stretching the short and tight muscles, common culprits include the upper traps, pec minor and lats.
Here’s how to stretch the Upper Trapezius muscle:
2 – Mobilise the Upper Back (Thoracic Spine)
The shoulder complex sits on top of the rib cage. The mobility of the upper spine is an integral part of the shoulders movement.
If you raise your arm in front of you, once you reach 140 degrees or approximately halfway between straight out in front of you and being directly overhead, then the remainder of the movement to overhead comes from your upper back and not your shoulder.
If you have a tight upper back then it is very common to see people lean backwards to press overhead because the lower back then produces the extra mobility necessary.
A tight thoracic spine will very quickly wear out a shoulder joint and injure a lower back if you spend a lot of time exercising directly overhead.
Work on your Thoracic mobility by using these mobility exercises or by lying backwards over a foam roller. The Yoga Snail Pose is also a great move to practice, just be careful of your neck.
Watch my Thoracic Spine Mobility series here:
3 – Improve Shoulder Stability
Once you have good muscular balance in your shoulder complex then the next step is to improve the shoulders stability.
When the shoulder is stable the smaller muscles work together to ensure that the shoulder is kept in its socket regardless of what position the arm is placed in.
The shoulder is always safest and less prone to injury when you have your hands on the floor and the force is being directed straight back and into the shoulder socket.
Initially we develop good shoulder stability as infants when we spend time crawling on all fours.
Begin on all fours practicing the bird dog exercise, then progress to the push up position, shoulder taps and slow mountain climbers.
It is no coincidence that I use these exercises in my 37 Core Workouts.
Watch the Bird Dog Exercise below:
4 – Integrate the Shoulder with the Hip
Once the shoulder is feeling more stable and is operating pain free it is time to integrate the shoulder movement with the rest of the body.
It is a common mistake to believe that a shoulder problem is only limited to the shoulder. You only have to look at how someone walks to see how the opposite arm and leg move together in a rotational pattern.
The left shoulder is attached to the right hip and the right shoulder to the left hip. There is a cross body connection via the core muscles.
Poor core function, a badly functioning shoulder or hip will all create issues up and down the chain. So a bad shoulder can lead to lower back problems and vice versa.
Practice integrating the shoulder with the opposite hip via the core muscles. The Bird Dog exercise that you practiced earlier is a good start. Once mastered you can progress to my favourite the Single Leg Deadlift.
See my 50 Kettlebell Circuits where I progress the Single Leg Deadlift effectively.
Watch the Single Leg Deadlift Exercise below:
Shoulder problems are unfortunately very common. They are usually caused by lifting too heavy, bad technique or using horrible exercises for the shoulder joint.
If you suffer from a shoulder injury then you need to stop all overhead exercises and keep movements below shoulder height.
Work on lengthening tight muscles and then strengthening weak muscles before moving onto full body integration exercises.
I hope you have found this useful and if you do suffer with shoulder issues then this will help.
Do you suffer with a bad shoulder? Let me know more below: