Many people take pain-free shoulders for granted, especially lifters. While it isn’t every day that you see someone get injured, you do see plenty of people with pains, pinches, weakness, or an inability to do any pressing movements.
Rotator cuff injuries are somewhat common due to many reasons such as poor posture, bad shoulder mechanics, and even from overdeveloped front delts. Mix in a touch of poor warming up and you have the recipe for a shoulder injury.
The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles that all have a specific function. Let’s see what the rotator cuff is made of so we can see how to help keep us injury free.
What Is The Rotator Cuff?
The rotator cuff is comprised of four different muscles in the shoulder:
- Teres Minor
With four different muscles controlling your shoulder, you see how easy it could be to pick up a shoulder strain or injury.
The teres minor’s main function is to stabilize the shoulder joint, helps draw your humerus into your scapula correctly, and works closely with the infraspinatus.
The supraspinatus acts as an abductor of the shoulder girdle and helps your arm move up and down on a horizontal plane. The infraspinatus attaches on the back side of the scapula and is one of the larger muscles in the rotator cuff.
Lastly, the subscapularis is the largest and strongest muscle in your rotator cuff. Its job is to medially rotate the shoulder joint itself.
Rotator cuff injuries are common among weight lifters due to the finicky nature of the muscles, the joint itself, and the effect your posture has on your shoulders.
Avoiding Rotator Cuff Injuries
Your rotator cuff is useful when pressing overhead, benching, pull-ups, and deadlifts. Keeping your rotator cuff healthy is important so that your lats and traps engage correctly and allow you to get the maximum amount of force from them.
Properly warming up your shoulders will allow your lifting career to go without as many injuries. Since the rotator cuff is made up of small muscles, you do not need to use a lot of weight to warm it up or strengthen it. Spend time on perfect form with very light weights and enjoy the benefits of healthy shoulders.
Believe it or not, posture plays a huge role in how well our shoulders work. A lot of us have desk jobs or other jobs that require us to be in a not-so-great position for most of the day.
Working on your posture will help alleviate some of the pains you may have, inside and outside of the gym. Take the time throughout the day to constantly check if you are sitting up straight, your core is tight, and even making sure your glutes and hips stay slightly engaged.
Addressing your posture is going to be one of the best things you can do for your shoulders.
Overdeveloped Front Delts
Another problem that is often overlooked is over-development of your front delts from pressing.
Any type of pressing movement requires the use of your chest and shoulders. Many people who love to do endless amounts of barbell and dumbbell bench pressing eventually complain about their shoulders hurting… but why?
You read above how there are four muscles that make up your rotator cuff, one being to hold the shoulder in its girdle socket. The more pressing you do without working out the antagonistic muscle (rear delt), you are making it more difficult for the teres minor to secure the joint. It causes the shoulder to be slightly out of whack, causing injuries.
Start incorporating more back workouts, especially those that hit the rear delt; face pulls, reverse pec dec, and bent over lateral raises should be your new best friend.
Tight Muscles And Scar Tissue
Take the time and go to a massage therapist to work the shoulder muscles and get any scar tissue out. Releasing these bound up muscles and scar tissue will allow a more freely moving shoulder, which means less pain.
If you would prefer to try this on your own, the video below goes through the different steps you can take to ensure you properly stretch and massage your shoulders.
Strengthen Your Rotator Cuffs
Strengthening your rotator cuffs and getting some scapula mobility are two things you should focus on if you want healthier shoulders.
Your upper back and external rotators should be your primary focus, with form and fluidity being the main concern. For the vast majority of people who read this, your shoulders will likely be rounded and caved forward, due to the nature of a desk job.
A few exercises you should incorporate into your current routine could be:
- Lying dumbbell side raises
- Face pulls
- Incline lateral raises
- Dumbbell external rotators
You could also use bands for these exercises so you can do these at home or on a rest day.
Wrapping It Up
Your posture and your exercise choices will influence how healthy your shoulders are. If you have poor posture from sitting at a desk all day, without stretching and performing preventative maintenance, you will eventually run into shoulder issues.
This article is written by someone who has personally dealt with shoulder issues in the past and these tips will help.
Hey Jeremy, great plan. I’ve had shoulder pain for about a year before I started this plan. With this plan the pain is less severe each week and now it’s almost gone, so thanks!
Take the time to take care of your shoulders and you will be able to train for years without any issues. Remember, lifting is for the long haul, don’t ruin your shoulders just because you want to bench 315 faster.