The first step to restructuring your shoulder training in a way that promotes growth without injury is understanding how your joints work. While your muscles may dictate movement, your joints allow for movement, and pushing your joint past its capabilities will lead to injuries that only set you back in the gym.
Your shoulder is composed of four joints: the glenohumeral, scapulothoracic, acromioclavicular, and sternoclavicular. For the sake of this article, the GH and ST joints are the two we’ll focus on, since they’re the primary muscle movers.
The glenohumeral joint—one of the more unstable joints in the body, which relies on muscles and ligaments to maintain its structure—is where the head of your humerus, or upper arm, meets your scapula. When it comes to training, this means that any movement that involves pressing or rowing demands synergy between your upper arm and scapula (shoulder blades). This synergy is called scapulohumeral rhythm, and if you want to maximize your ability to press while minimizing injury, it’s important to pay attention to it. Otherwise, you’ll perform lifts that lock the scapula into place and put unneeded pressure on the GH joint, which, over time, can damage the rotator cuff. For example: When it comes to pulling exercises, the head of the humerus pokes forward once the elbow is behind the body. (Row your elbow past your torso and poke the front of your shoulder. You’ll feel the bone.) Ultimately, that’ll eventually create elasticity in an already unstable joint. Most times, these injuries are avoidable simply by focusing on your form—the shoulder joint is most stable with the elbow by your side—and leaving your ego at the door. Each body is different, however, so here are a few key points to keep in mind while training when it comes to maintaining shoulder health.
- Be cautious of exercises that lock you into place, like barbells and machines.
- Allow for proper scapulohumeral rhythm for healthy movement.
- The closer your elbow is to your body, the more stable the shoulder is.
- Avoid exercises that have your elbows move past your body, like improper dips and rows.
In the following slides, we outline five exercises that won’t disrupt your scapulohumeral rhythm, and list the exercises that they should be subbed in for.
The Pain-Free Upper Body Routine>>>