5 Strategies for Healthy Shoulders

March 10th, 2022

Shoulder injuries are one of the more common causes of pain in active people.  Since the shoulder is a complex joint with a lot of moving parts, finding the “right stretch” or exercise to fix shoulder issues is difficult.  Throughout my years of practice I’ve found the below framework to work well for creating strong and resilient shoulders. 

 

Core Stability

The “core” has become such a buzz word among fad workout plans that it has lost its luster.  Having a stable core goes far beyond crunches and “6-pack shredding” ab routines.  A strong core is a stable foundation on which your hips and shoulder can function freely.  

Throwing a ball, for instance, with an unstable core is like firing a cannon from a rowboat.  Throwing a ball with a stable core is like firing a cannon from a slab of concrete.  Core exercises should encourage stiffness and control in the torso.  Below are some examples of core exercises that will turn you into concrete… in a good way! 

 

Thoracic Spine Mobility

Individual parts of the body never function in isolation.  We cannot expect the shoulder to move well if the thoracic spine, a.k.a. upper back, does not move well.  

To prove my point, try this.  Round your back like a hunchback and try to raise your arm above your head.  Now straighten up and try to raise your arm.  It is much easier to lift your arm when your spine can move, isn’t it? 

Here are a couple drills that will help mobilize your thoracic spine so your shoulder can move well.  

 

Shoulder Stability

The shoulder is an inherently loose joint.  The shoulder socket is like a golf ball on a golf tee.  Compare its anatomy to the hip which is anatomically more stable.  

An important principle to keep in mind when performing shoulder stability drills is to “set” your shoulders. 

  1.  Shrug your shoulders up.
  2. Now do the opposite by anti-shrugging or dropping your shoulder down away from your ears.
  3. Imagine letting your shoulder blades slide down into your back pockets.

Maintain that position when performing the drills.  

 

Shoulder Mobility

Mobility in the shoulder should be approached differently than doing mindless stretching.  Focus on controlled mobility.  Below are great examples of shoulder mobility drills.

 

Strength

The shoulder can be strengthened in many different ways, but we can break those ways down into 4 broad patterns along with exercises corresponding to each pattern.

  1. Horizontal Pull: ring rows, face-pulls, bent over rows
  2. Horizontal Push: push-ups, bench-press
  3. Vertical Pull: lat pull-downs, pull-ups
  4. Vertical Push: military press, thrusters

If you were to create a pie chart of the ideal upper body workout half of that pie chart would be horizontal pulls.  This movement pattern strengthens the muscles in the back and back of the shoulders.  These are the muscles that help you maintain posture and good shoulder functionality. 

 

How to implement the above strategies:

Warm-up: 

  • 2 minutes of Thoracic Spine Mobility
  • 2 minutes of Shoulder Stability
  • 2 minutes of Shoulder Mobility

Work-out:

  • Strength (half of which are horizontal pulls) 
  • Super-set core exercises with strength exercises

Cool-down:

  • 2 minutes of Thoracic Spine Mobility
  • 2 minutes of Shoulder Mobility

 

If you’re having shoulder pain, we’re here to help.  Click HERE to schedule an appointment.

 
 
 
 
                       

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