Our shoulders are one of the most mobile and versatile joints in our body. They allow us to carry out a wide range of motions and often we take this for granted. The wide range of movements involving our shoulder joints also makes our shoulders susceptible to damage, which takes a long time to heal.
Since dealing with soreness, strange grinding noises, tightness, and not being able to use your shoulders beyond a limited range of motion can be very frustrating, you may want to be more careful about how you use these essential joints.
Fortunately, with the help of some mindfulness and a few simple preventive measures, it is possible to keep your shoulders strong and healthy — for the long haul.
Tips For Preventing Shoulder Injuries
1. Hunker Down
The next time you do your planks, pull-ups, machine chest press, and bench press, be mindful of keeping your shoulders down instead of raised. This will help prevent instability and will also activate all of the larger muscles that can aid in shoulder movement. This prevents your rotator cuff muscles from undergoing too much pressure which could otherwise deactivate the larger stronger muscles that should be active.
2. Row Away
Your shoulders consist of two important parts – a round ball called the gleno-humoral joint and the scapula. This extends from the either side of the center of your upper back region.
It is important to exercise the muscles in the scapulo-thoracic joint and the best way to do this is by practicing rowing exercises. Throw your chest outwards and squeeze your shoulder blades backward. Perform several reps by performing exercises like barbell rows, cable rows, single-arm dumbbell rows, to enhance the stability, endurance, and proper development strength of this muscle for stronger shoulders. This will protect your gleno-humoral joint so you can carry out your daily activities in peace.
3. Train Your Lats
Your shoulders are made up of large muscle groups like your lats, and smaller muscles that make up your “rotator cuff”. The latter group of muscles help keeping your shoulder joints intact when you move. However, if you use these for jobs that they shouldn’t be doing, you could end up damaging these small delicate muscles.
Therefore, in order to protect your shoulders, start teaching the larger, stronger lats to contract themselves in the right way. This can help make for a sturdy foundation to aid in healthy shoulder movement.
4. Stretch During Your Chest Flies
If you’re looking to bulk up your chest muscles and tone your arms, chest flies are the right exercises for you. However, the mechanics of your shoulder may often lead to these exercises causing you more harm than good.
This is because, lifters normally tend to go for heavy weights when doing these chest flies, and these do not promote a natural body movement. Instead, they put your shoulder muscles and joints through unnatural strain.
The next time you perform a chest fly, use light weights instead of heavy weights which work better when performing presses. Lighter weights allow you slower, more gentle movement. This helps activate the right muscles and allows you to stretch and contract your chest gradually. This way, you can bring about complete stability of your shoulder joints.
5. Don’t Ignore Your Serratus
When you raise your arms over your head, your shoulders need stabilizing, a role performed by the serratus. This muscle that attaches your ribs to your scapula, doesn’t get nearly enough attention as it ought to. During sudden movements like jerks, throws, swings, and pitches, it is this muscle that rushes to protect the smaller, more delicate muscles from damage.
However, not too many machines are built to develop the serratus which may lead to this muscle becoming slow to respond. However, overhead dumbbell pullovers and straight-arm-pull-downs are good ways to strengthen and improve the functionality of this muscle. Remember to stick to light weights and move at a slow pace, just as you would with your chest flies and your shoulders will thank you later!