Avoid these common shoulder exercises
Have you ever experienced a dull ache or sharp pain in your shoulder or upper arm? Maybe you are unable to sleep on one side because your shoulder wakes you up at night. Perhaps, you have discomfort reaching behind your back to tuck in your shirt or grab your wallet. If so, you may be suffering from a rotator cuff injury.
The most commonly injured muscle is the supraspinatus. It is responsible for initiating and aiding in elevation of the arm. If torn, the individual typically experiences persistent pain in the upper lateral arm and significant difficulty raising the arm without compensatory motion from the scapula (shrug sign). The hallmark signs of a tear are nocturnal pain, loss of strength, and inability to raise the arm overhead.
The key to avoiding rotator cuff injury is performing adequate conditioning prior to stressing it with vigorous activities. Many weekend warriors try to pick up the softball, baseball, football, etc. and begin throwing repetitively and forcefully without properly warming up. In addition, they are not likely to condition before the season like competitive athletes.
Without proper strength and conditioning, the shoulder easily becomes inflamed. Since the rotator cuff muscles are small, it is best to utilize lower resistance and higher repetitions to sufficiently strengthen them.
Sample exercises include theraband or light dumbbell external and internal rotation exercises, which can be performed at various degrees of abduction.
Finally, it is important to note some precautions with general exercises routinely performed in health clubs. Here are some recommendations on what not to do.
- Avoid lat pull downs and military presses behind the head, as they place the shoulder in a poor biomechanical position encouraging impingement.
- Do not lower the bar or dumbbells below parallel with incline/flat bench press for the same reason.
- Refrain from using too much weight with lateral shoulder raises. This exercise increases the load on the shoulder to 90% of the body weight, so there is no need to use heavy weight.
It is best to maintain an arc of movement slightly in front of the body with lateral raises to decrease stress on the rotator cuff, while avoiding elevation above 90 degrees.
Specific rotator cuff exercises can be incorporated into upper body workouts. Perform 2 sets of 15-25 repetitions for each exercise. These exercises should be done no more than three times per week to avoid overtraining.