What I am going to do however is show you how of all the muscle groups in your body, the single most important to keep healthy if you want longevity in the gym is….the shoulders!
One Of The Most Injured Joints In The Body
That said, the shoulder joint is probably one of the most injured joints in the body (even higher if you consider that group of guys I work with…major league pitchers!). The cause actually has to do with what actually is the joint’s greatest asset…its mobility.
As a tradeoff for being one of the most mobile joints in the body, the shoulder isn’t the most stabile. I’m sure you’ve either heard about, known someone, or even suffered yourself through a dislocation, broken collarbone, had impingement, or had a rotator cuff and/or labrum tear.
Unfortunately none of these are that uncommon. That said, how do you continue to get in your workouts and make your regular trips to the gym if your shoulder is aching something fierce? The answer is…you probably don’t. At least, you don’t with the idea of making any progress.
Maintenance becomes the goal at that point. You might say, well…I can still train legs, but I challenge you to try and put 45 pound Olympic plates on the ends of the bars when your shoulders aren’t strong enough to hold the plate let alone lift it to almost head height. Even holding dumbbells at your sides could be a bit of a challenge if you have a labrum tear.
When you tear the labrum you lose a bit of the suctioning ability of the shoulder joint to hold the ball and socket tightly in place. Lose this and then try to hold a 45 pound dumbbell and you’re liable to feel like either Plastic Man getting his arms stretched out or worse…like your arm is no longer IN the socket!
Exercises To Protect The Shoulder
As I pointed out last time there are a few exercises you can avoid if you want to try and protect your shoulders, particularly if you’ve had problems in the past or are a current athlete who relies on your arms for your living! The first was the upright row. While I have at times used this exercise in combo with other movements like a clean, I still maintain a love-hate relationship with it.
It does produce effective shoulder development, but in people with unhealthy shoulders already…at a cost. If you’re going to lift the weights up to this height (either on a side lateral raise or an upright row) one simple tweak can make all the difference. Simply don’t allow your pinkies to raise higher than your thumbs.
You’ve probably heard before to assume a position at the top of either exercise like you’re pouring a pitcher of water? Well….um…..scratch that. That’s bad advice. You’re internally rotating your shoulder and making it all the more likely to have an impingement flair up from that position. Instead, keep the thumb higher then the pinky and you’ll reduce the stress on the rotator cuff and shoulder by a significant amount.
Finally, when doing your dumbbell shoulder presses, try as often as possible to do them standing. This will keep your shoulder blades operating smoothly with normal mechanics. If you sit on a bench with your back plastered to the pad, you’ll actually lock down the shoulder blades and prevent them from rotating up as smoothly as they should be.
This will throw off the whole mechanics of the arm traveling overhead, which will ultimately lead to compensations and breakdowns. For as simple a change as just standing instead of sitting, believe me…the long term benefits are invaluable.
The Goal: A SAFE Program
So you see, the goal when going to the gym or even starting a new workout program shouldn’t just be finding a program that produces results…but also one that produces results that you can repeat for days, weeks, months and even years without it leading to an injury that prevents you from working out at all. As I said, the most vulnerable point in your kinetic chain is that shoulder joint.
A poorly put together strength training program can destroy a shoulder quicker than a bad personal trainer can tell you what the role of the shoulder even is! Don’t put yourself in the position where you have to rely on this type of advice.
Do what you can do to “arm” yourself with only the most logical but also fun and challenging exercises and workout routines that are not only going to get you strong, but keep you going strong for years and years to come!
Best in health,
Know you need to start a workout program but aren’t sure if it’s safe due to your already achy joints? CLICK HERE to find out more about the AthLEAN-X Training System, a 90 day strength and conditioning program developed by former head physical therapist and strength coach for the New York Mets and current trainer to elite celebrity athletes. Copy the same program that keeps these guys going strong.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.