Spot-on shoulders – monthly feature in Health & Fitness magazine
June 10, 2015
Here’s how to strengthen the area and avoid injury:
Your shoulders are involved in practically every upper-body exercise and also play a key part in everyday movements and your posture. You need to be able to move the shoulder joints in multiple directions while also counterbalancing this mobility with adequate stability, in order to stay injury free.
Your shoulder is made up of several joints, around which there are lots of supporting muscles, including the rotator cuff (connecting the upper arm to the shoulder blade), the biceps (upper arm, linking to shoulder muscles), the rhomboids (which attach your shoulder blade to your spine and neck), the trapezius (which goes from the back of your shoulder to the top of it and up your neck) and, of course, the deltoids (which wrap over the outside edge of your shoulder).
These all need balancing and strengthening to keep everything in the right place so it works properly. But it’s common for these muscles around the shoulders to become unbalanced, typically due to overuse and adaptation to prolonged sitting, which compromises and weakens the joints and can, in turn, lead to shoulder pain, something that 70 per cent of us are likely to experience at some point in our lives.
Typically, the biceps and anterior (front) deltoid muscles are overused and become shortened, for example, while the posterior (back) deltoid and rhomboids are relatively underused and become lengthened. This causes your shoulders to round forwards, putting extra strain on certain areas, increasing the risk of injury – very commonly in the rotator cuff muscles.
Simply sitting and standing with better posture can help keep your shoulders healthy, but specific strengthening exercises that target the underused and weakened areas can help you stay balanced and injury free. Three of the top body-weight movements for keeping your shoulders in check are detailed below, so why not give them a go?
THREE SHOULDER-BOOSTING MOVES
Get into push-up position with your feet on a bench or chair. Walk your hands backwards, bending your hips and raising your bottom towards the ceiling, until your torso is at ninety degrees to your legs. Bend your arms to lower your body to the floor until your head is between your hands. Pause, then press back up. Start with three sets of eight reps. If you’re struggling, go half way down and build up.
WIDE-GRIP INVERTED ROW
Set a barbell at hip height in a rack. Sit on the floor below it, then hold the bar just wider than shoulder width with your palms facing towards you. Stretch your legs out straight so your heels are on the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your chest to touch the bar (between your hands), holding for a couple of seconds. Start with three sets of 15 reps.
Lie flat on your front with your arms out to the sides in a crucifix position, palms facing the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, then lift your arms out to the sides. Actively squeeze for 15 seconds, repeating six times. This may sound easy, but it’s harder than you think! Start with three sets of 6 x 15 seconds, and with all of these exercises, build up as they become easier.