If we had a nickel for everyone we knew with a shoulder injury, we’d probably have about $1.80 (which is too damn much). This complex miasma of musculature is nothing that you want to take lightly. With so many insertions, origins, and bone junctions all vying for space with a ball joint, it doesn’t take much to land you in the physical therapy ward. For that reason, we got philanthropic and detailed some guidelines that should steer you clear of any serious setbacks to your gains.
Half-assing the Warm Up
As mind-numbing as it may be, a well thought out warm up routine is paramount to shoulder health. Especially if you’re into heavy military or dumbbell pressing (basically any kind of pressing), you should be getting some blood flow to that region before boarding the Gain Train.
Here’s a shoulder complex that’s a great precursor to any kind of upper body training*
Step One – Front raises with your thumbs up – 10 reps
Step Two – Front raises with your thumbs down – 10 reps
Step Three – Form a diamond with your hands and bring them up to your neck (like an upright row), keeping the elbows high – 10 reps
Step Four – Arm Circles – 10 reps one direction followed by 10 in the opposite direction
*Complete the first round without weight, then if needed, hold 2.5-pound plates in each hand for the second round.
We’ve also found that knocking out a few push ups before your first set never hurt either.
A Crippling Lack of Variety
Get weird with it, just like your last relationship. The shoulder is sporting a handful of differing muscles, so the more angles hit the better. Incorporate classics like the Upright Row, Arnold Press, and cable variations to break up the monotony of Military Presses followed closely by Lateral Raises.
We’re not knocking heavy lifting by any means, but as far as shoulders are concerned, they require a bit more of a warm up than simpler muscle groups. Aside from your heavy overhead sets, add in light, pump routines consisting of sets of 20 and 30. Training for muscular endurance has loads of real life functionality when it comes to your delts.
Tip from left field: At the end of your shoulder day, or when you don’t feel like training legs (always), hit the heavy bag. Boxing routines often kick the hell out of your shoulders, due to the fact you have to keep your hands up (not to mention working the jab).
Continued on the next page…
Underestimating The Little Guys
You got it — the dreaded rotator cuff. Commonly ripped to sh*t in most lifters, the rotator cuff is responsible for the stability of the glenohumeral joint and a variety of other movements — adduction/abduction of the humerus, etc…
Ignoring these fibrous straps of inconvenience is a surefire ticket to SLAP tear city or a myriad of strains and impingements. Luckily, there are a couple of movements to keep you healthy, however tedious they may be.
Internal/External Rotations: You’ve probably seen these being done before in any given gym. The movements are fairly simple and certainly not glamorous, but the payoff is the longevity of your gains. Complete a few sets of rotations before or after your shoulder routines, depending on your needs. Check out the pretty picture for reference.
Rotator Cuff Stretches: Below is a few images of valuable stretches for this complex muscle maze. It would be a good idea to incorporate these once or twice a week (three if you have the time).
That’s his serious face.
That is of course not a comprehensive stretch list; however, we encourage you to take care of your shoulders. God knows it’s an absolute nightmare to rehab that joint. Don’t forget:
Avoid Half-assing the Warm Up
Don’t Be So Basic With The Exercise Selection
Pay Attention To The Little Things
Good luck out there.