Preventing Shoulder Injuries

When you are training hard to build up your delts, arms, chest and back the last thing you need is a shoulder injury. Shoulder injuries commonly occur in those who train the upper limbs frequently which in my experience is more than 4 times per week. This comes down to three reasons;

  • Not doing enough mobility work (i.e. dynamic stretching and putting the muscle/joint through the full range of motion)
  • Not doing enough stability work (i.e. forgetting to work each part of the rotator cuff)
  • Compensation mechanisms in built from lifestyle habits (i.e. tight upper traps due to a sedentary lifestyle)

When you are lifting weights regularly, you will lose mobility. This is because you are essentially tearing the muscle which causes scar tissue to form. The scar tissue will then allow muscular hypertrophy, so scar tissue is a good thing! If, however, you allow this scar tissue to continually build up it will prevent you from being able to move your joints properly and leave you open to injury.

To prevent scar tissue from negatively affecting your performance start stretching dynamically, so moving the muscle and joint through a full range of motion. I also see a whole heap of benefit using the ‘Graston Technique’ which involves rubbing a hard (often metal) object up and down tight muscles with the aim of breaking up scar tissue.

If you are performing big, heavy exercises but are not doing enough stability work you will end up hurting yourself. Once again, the shoulder is particularly prone to this. When you are doing bench presses, pull ups, shoulder presses etc you will strengthen large muscle groups but often miss the smaller stabiliser muscle groups. Should these stabiliser muscle groups not be strengthened themselves you will inevitably start to develop poor movement patterns which place your shoulder in a compromised position.

To break down these poor movement patterns or prevent them from occurring you need to start performing external rotation exercises, lower trap recruitment exercises (such as the T-raise) and perform exercises slowly and with light weights to allow the stabiliser muscles to be recruited. To learn more about this check out this post on my instagram.

If you have acquired a compensatory mechanism such as overutilising your upper traps, using your triceps and deltoids instead using your pecs in chest exercises, or favouring internal rotation of the shoulder (shoulders rolling forwards) you will often find yourself weaker and in an injured state. To balance this out the best thing you can do is seek a professionals help! In Sydney I recommend a chiropractic team named ‘Tensegrity’, but if you’re not from Sydney do your research to find someone reputable. In conjunction with using a professional I recommend you avoid sitting for extended periods of time, make sure you are practicing diaphragmatic breathing, and avoid tilting your pelvis posteriorly or anteriorly.

By correcting these three common issues affecting the shoulder you should be free to train as hard and as often as you like! Do you have any current shoulder issues? If so, comment below so I can help you!

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