Shoulder exercises are an important part of any strength-training routine, but it’s equally important to move with caution, as the shoulder is one of the most mobile, and therefore unstable, joints in the body.
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The clavicle, collarbone, and shoulder blade all come together at the shoulder. The arm is connected to the body via the shoulder socket, forming an unstable ball-and-socket joint. With increased mobility comes more room for injury, simply because you can move it in many more directions.
The solution is not to avoid shoulder movements while exercising, as weak shoulder muscles could cause injury due to lack of strength when performing everyday movements. The best plan is to stretch and strengthen your shoulders properly in order to prevent future injuries and maintain function.
1. Use Correct Form During Overhead Movements
Proper form is key when it comes to any exercise, but especially for overhead movements that stress the shoulder. To do an overhead press, stand in an upright position with a barbell or dumbbells. Push the bar or dumbbells overhead until your elbows are straight and locked out and your shoulders are shrugging upward. The press motion should come from your upper body strength while your lower body supports you. You should be pressing the bar or dumbbells straight upwards over your head, not behind or in front of it. The bar or dumbbells should rest at shoulder level at the end of each repetition. In addition, keep your back, head, and neck in proper neutral alignment throughout the exercise.
2. Proper Stretching Before And After Workouts
It’s important to include dynamic stretching before your workout and static stretching afterwards. Dynamic stretches are fluid motions that start the muscle firing pattern without a lot of resistance, in order to work on range of motion and increase blood flow. Static stretches are at a standstill and are held in the same position for specific periods of time. Both types of shoulder stretches are important to include in your routine.
Dynamic shoulder stretches include:
- Arms swings across back and forth across the body for 60 seconds
- Arm circles to the front and to the back for 60 seconds
- Line yourself up with a wall and raise your arms above head until they touch the wall behind you. Complete 20 repetitions.
Static shoulder stretches include:
- Alternate crossing each arm across your body and holding with the opposing arm. Hold for 60 seconds on each side.
- Use the doorway stretch and line up at the doorway with both arms open wide. Grab each side of the doorway and push forward to stretch out your chest and shoulder muscles.
3. Incorporate Foam Rolling
Myofascial release, or foam rolling, reduces muscle tension and improves range of motion. Less tension and more flexibility means less chance of getting injured.
- Use a foam roller and place it horizontally below your upper back with your arms crossed. Roll back and forth and hold over spots with tension.
- Another exercise is to place the foam roller vertically behind your back. Place your arms out to either side and hold the position to release tension.
- Go to your side and place the foam roller under your shoulder blade and roll back and forth to release tension in the back of the shoulder.
4. Pay Attention To Warning Signs
It’s important to know which cues to look for when a shoulder injury is about to occur. Once you know these red flags, you can stop what you are doing in order to prevent an injury. In addition, it can help you assess the health of your shoulder before engaging in any overhead shoulder-based movements in your workout.
When you perform any of the dynamic stretches, does your arm feel stiff or unable to move in any of the directions? That points to a strain or issue with the joint and/or muscle. Another key point is to observe your strength when performing overhead movements in everyday life. Are you able to lift objects above your head to put them in the cabinet? If you struggle with functional tasks, then it may be a good idea to do a range of motion and manual muscle test to see if strength or joint limitations are issues before proceeding with exercises.