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Safeguard Your Shoulders

Written By

Jeremy Boyd


Personal Training, Programming, Rehabilitation

Posted On

22 May 2014

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In recent years, shoulder pain has become more and more common in fitness enthusiasts. Historically, it was more common in men and typically the result of too great a bias towards training the upper body (every day is chest day syndrome).

Now however, it’s becoming more and more common and it’s not entirely down to training your chest too much.

In order to understand why you might have shoulder pain, either now or in the future, you need a quick primer on shoulder anatomy. Whilst a complete breakdown of the structures and their functions may be beneficial, there are really only three things you need to know:

1. Subacromial Space

This is the space between the front edge of the acromion (shoulder bone) and the head of the humerus (upper arm bone). There are a number of tissues that run through or next to this space and shrinking it can therefore result compression or abrasion of those tissues. Therefore, exercises that help to maintain a balance between the muscles controlling the position of these different structures are ideal.

2. Structural Balance

This is a concept popularised by Charles Poliquin and presents the idea that every joint structure has an ideal structural balance. That is, that the strength of the muscles around a joint are balanced in relation to the tension of the opposing muscles in such a way as to maintain optimum position. All of which simply means that if one muscle is disproportionately stronger or tighter than another, your joint won’t be optimally aligned and therefore won’t work as mechanically efficiently as it should.

3. Daily Life

If you’re like most people, a large portion of your day is spent with gravity pulling your shoulders forward and down. Typically, this will happen when you’re sat at a desk, table or in a car. Again, if you’re like most people, this accounts for the bulk of your day, for the bulk of your week, for the bulk of your life. Consequently, the default positioning of your shoulders changes over time.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, the good news is that just 15-20 minutes a day, 5 days a week , for 4 weeks, can leave your shoulders feeling healthier than you ever thought possible. Not only that, but tidying up your shoulder positioning now, may save you some aches and pains down the road.

The programme

The following five workouts should be performed once each week. Ideally you’ll have 1 days rest between workouts 2 and 3 OR 3 and 4 and then take 1 days rest after workout 5.

The progression from week to week is simple:

  • Week 1: 3 sets of 12 reps for each exercise unless otherwise specified
  • Week 2: 3 sets of 15 reps for each exercise unless otherwise specified
  • Week 3: 4 sets of 12 reps for each exercise unless otherwise specified
  • Week 4: 4 sets of 15 reps for each exercise unless otherwise specified

Rest for a maximum of 45-60 seconds between rounds and make sure to do each exercise in sequence where possible.

The workout is designed to strengthen any weak muscles and restore the space inside your shoulder joint.

Workout 1

  • A1 Foam Roller Chest 30 seconds each side
  • A2 Power Band Supinated Pull Aparts
  • A3 High Plank Scapular Push Ups

Workout 2

  • A1 Foam Roller Lats 30 seconds each side
  • A2 Dumbbell Trap 3 Raises
  • A3 Barbell Overhead Shrugs

Workout 3

  • A1 Foam Roller Upper Back 30 seconds each side
  • A2 Prone Chest Supported Dumbbell Internal Rotations
  • A3 Prone Chest Supported ‘T’s
  • A4 Supine Barbell Scapular Presses

Workout 4

  • A1 Foam Roller Lats 30 seconds each side
  • A2 Scapular Pull Ups/Scapular Wide Grip Pull Downs
  • A3 Standing Dumbbell Cuban Rotations

Workout 5

  • A1 Foam Roller Chest 30 seconds each side
  • A2 Scapular Wall Slides
  • A3 Prone Chest Supported Barbell Scapular Retractions
  • A4 Seated Knee Braced Dumbbell External Rotation

Don’t be surprised by how challenging these workouts can be. If you’re not used to it, the small muscles you’re targeting will fatigue quite quickly and you’ll probably need to drop your weights or forgo their use altogether.

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