The shoulder. Maybe it isn’t the greatest design out there, but it does allow people to do some pretty amazing things. When you think about which joints in the human body are most prone to injury, there’s a healthy competition between the shoulder and the knee for the top spot.
But it’s not really a fair fight. The knee is a highly complex hinge-joint designed to deal with an insane amount of force in the frontal and sagittal planes inherent in flexion and extension of the joint. The knee contains a number of stabilizing ligaments (ACL, PCL, MCL, LCL) and menisci (medial and lateral) that provide additional stability as well as acting like shock absorbers in order to deal with varus and valgus forces, as well as internal and external rotation.
The shoulder joint and surrounding musculature on the other hand, is a kind of ball and socket joint primarily designed to stabilize the glenohumeral joint. While this allows for amazing flexibility and range of motion (certainly much more range of motion than the knee), all of that flexibility and complexity can leave the shoulder more susceptible to injury.
The Shoulder Is Under Pressure
The bottom line—the shoulder isn’t well designed to deal with the horizontal and vertical forces that we throw at them in strength and conditioning. But with smart programming and thoughtful supplemental work, you can train hard, push big weights and avoid the sorts of injuries that we’ve all likely had a time or two and get stronger in the process.
Because of the range of motion that the shoulder is capable of, it is important to train the surrounding musculature to be strong in as many of these ranges of motion as you safely can.
At Gym Jones, we use a number of isometric holds where we ask of the shoulder musculature to do what it was designed to do—stabilize the glenohumeral joint. For example:
Double kettlebell/dumbbell front rack carries Overhead kettlebell/dumbbell carries Mixed kettlebell/dumbbell carries FLR planks Ring planks Side planks Light dumbbell push presses with isometric overhead holds Overhead squatting Slosh pipe carries and holds
We also use a number of supplemental shoulder exercises to become as strong as possible in various ranges of motion, including:
Dumbbell lateral raises Bent over rear delt flys Chest flys Push-ups Parallete push-ups Ring push-ups Ring pull-ups
Feel free to add these shoulder specific movements and exercises to your existing programming if they aren’t sufficiently present already. Remember to stay light enough to ensure perfect technique and only increase weight when you can do so perfectly. Technique is paramount with shoulder work. Don’t let your ego creep in!
Progress Your Training and Increase Your Strength
As with all other kinds of training, your sets and rep structures should be progressive, starting with the lowest volume that will cause adaptation and working towards the maximum you can recover from. Get out there and build some bulletproof shoulders.