One of the biggest risks in strength training is injuring our joints by accident. When it comes to the big compound movements, we are usually most concerned about knee or ankle injuries as those are typically prevalent in exercises like squats and lunges. However, there tends to be a lack in emphasis on shoulder awareness, which is a problem given that the shoulder joints are highly vulnerable to injury – too much ballistic movement or loading can cause a strain or worse, a dislocation. Take better care of your shoulders when you train by focusing on these three areas:
1. Pay extra attention when performing bench presses
The bench press is a staple of strength training because due to its ability to work multiple muscle groups such as the triceps, biceps and quadriceps. However, shoulder injuries are the most common injury incurred with this exercise. To avoid straining your shoulders, avoid placing your hands too far apart on the barbell as doing so exerts stress on your shoulders. The optimum distance? The space between the two bony ridges (acromion) on your shoulders. Doing the dumbbell variation of the bench press is also known to be a more should-friendly alternative.
2. Work on achieving muscular symmetry
Most people tend to focus solely on developing their “mirror muscles” and this could lead to certain muscular imbalances. Apart from the structural implications, deficits in strength across different muscles can lead to certain muscles having to work harder to compensate for the weaker ones, which can also lead to overuse injuries over time. To protect your shoulders from this, focus on actively bringing up the strength of your shoulders by using a combination of shoulder-dominant compound movements and isolation work. As the shoulder comprises three main muscles (anterior, lateral and posterior deltoid), be sure not to train just one at the expense of the other.
3. Give some TLC to your soft tissues
Overstrained muscles definitely need tending to but so do injured soft tissues. When rehabilitating an injured shoulder, give some support to your soft tissues. Kinesiology tapes are great for providing support to injured joints and tissues and help with circulation. Once the injury has abated, implement prehabilitative protocols to minimise the chance of a relapse. The movements should focus on building and maintaining mobility while also utilising very light resistance training to assist with muscle activation.
Shoulders should be a focal point of our strength training routines, so don’t neglect them as shoulder injuries can seriously limit your mobility and affect your workouts. Considering how modern lifestyle habits tend to result in compromised postures (e.g. sloped shoulders), this statement could not be more relevant!