Shoulder Exercises

The Gain Without Pain Workout

Shoulder injuries are among the most common in the gym. Here's how to avoid them.

Gain Without Pain

Everybody is familiar with this expression. But if you suffer discomfort during a shoulder workout, it could spell trouble. What starts as a twinge can soon get worse, yet many gymgoers ignore it until the pain becomes intolerable.

It’s a familiar tale. Shoulder injuries are among the most common in the gym and often require lengthy rehabilitation or surgery. Well-intentioned but harmful advice often makes matters worse.

The bottom line is that the shoulder is a complex joint. It’s worth taking time to learn the basics and following the steps necessary to prevent your gains from being compromised by injury.

The shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body, but the flip side is, it’s also one of the less stable.

I say “joint,” but it is not actually a single joint. It is the articulation between the head of the humerus bone on the upper arm and the glenoid fossa socket on the shoulder. It’s often likened to a golf ball resting on a rather large tee. The joint is designed for maximum mobility to allow a broad spectrum of upper-body movement, but this inherent instability is at the root of many problems.

The rotator cuff is crucial because it stabilizes the shoulder. Most shoulder injuries affect the rotator cuff, and the purpose of most rehab work is to strengthen it.

The rotator cuff consists of four muscles that can be remembered by the acronym SITS: supraspinatus, infra-spinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. These muscles originate from different parts of the scapula (shoulder blade) and insert into the humeral head, converging together into a tendinous “cuff ” around the joint.

Problems usually occur when tight internal shoulder rotators pull the humeral head forward and inward. If the external shoulder rotators are weak, they are unable to counteract this force, and this leads to pain in the rotator cuff.

Although the pain is felt in the shoulder, the root of the problem is usually more widespread. The chest, back, and biceps muscles all traverse the shoulders, so every upper-body workout activates the rotator cuff to some extent. Unfortunately, many of the exercises we do for these body parts cause internal shoulder rotation. There is a mismatch between the internal and external shoulder rotators. Guys who hammer their pecs and lats are potentially storing up problems by overtraining their internal rotators and neglecting their external rotators. 

SEE ALSO: 10 Tricks for Bigger, Healthier Shoulders

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