This continued series is meant to provide infoMany misconceptions exist about the shoulder and are held by coaches, parents, athletes, health care professionals, etc. These need to stop immediately, like people who go to the restroom and lay their pants on the ground…I’m not a germaphobe, but seriously, you want to lay your pants on a dirty, often times wet floor while you take care of your business…use some common sense and hang them around your knees!
#9 Sit-ups are Irrelevant for Shoulder Pain
Now let me say this upfront, shoulder pain is not caused by crunches or spinal flexion exercises, but improper form and programming can lead to shoulder pain. With proper spinal flexion form, only the upper back moves, unfortunately many people lunge their next forward during the crunch, putting the shoulder (and neck) at risk for injury. Proper programming is also essential, I debunked the myth that crunches are dangerous on Swimming Science, Dryland Mistake: Spinal Flexion, but I made a point to emphasize poor programming can lead to problems. Spinal flexion exercises work the rectus abdominus. The rectus abdominus runs from the ribs and sternum to the pelvis. If this muscle is excessively tight it can cause kyphosis and a rounded back. After reading part I, you should know the importance of the thoracic spine for shoulder health. If you are doing the Herschel Walker plan (3,000 sit-ups daily) and experience shoulder pain, reconsider your programming and decrease your volume of crunches.
#10 If my Shoulder Hurts, I’ll Just Work my Legs with Squats…
Squats are a great exercise to improve strength of the quads and glutes (if performed in full range). Unfortunately, the typical back squat requires the athlete to hold a heavy bar on their shoulders. This position puts a lot of stress on the anterior shoulder. Higher anterior shoulder stresses can give to instability, the most common injury with overhead athletes. A simple fix is simply performing front or goblet squats.
#11 I’m Right Handed how can I give it rest?
Unfortunately, not many of us are ambidextrous. However, there are subtle things you can do during the day to give your shoulder a break. If your shoulder is bothering you must to give it a break, especially if you are an overhead athlete. Whether you are a pitcher or swimmer, you are excessively stressing your shoulder for optimal sports performance. Then, if you head to school and write with your right arm, you are stressing your shoulder even more. All of the above activities are hard to change, since not everyone can write with both hands. However, there are many activities you can alter during the day to decrease shoulder stress. Think, do you always wear your purse on one shoulder? Do you constantly drive with one arm? Do you lean on one shoulder? These are the changes anyone can make to decrease and distribute stress a bit more evenly.
#12 If I have Hypermobility, I don’t need to do Soft Tissue Work
I am a huge advocate of soft tissue. Whether you have shoulder, low back, or neck pain it is likely I’m going to give you soft tissue mobility. Soft tissue work is performed with tennis balls, foam rolls, or with a trained professional. I have had a ton of soft tissue experience and have found a lot of tricks to improve shoulder pain, luckily most of these can be performed with the help of a health care professional! From my experience, the muscles that run rampant in shoulder injuries are the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, pectoralis minor, subscapularis, and infraspinatus. Not all of these muscles can be targeted with self soft tissue techniques, but most of them are accessible with the right tools.
#13 Speed Work is Low Stress
Many feel speed exercises put low stress on the shoulder since low resistance is commonly used. However, decelerating a movement requires high levels of force and stresses the joint. Luckily, there are methods to use speed training safely…the compact position. Holding the shoulder blade down and back will stabilize the shoulder and prevent disastrous stress to the shoulder. Remember, protraction and instability are kyptonite to shoulder pain!
#14 All you Need is Strengthening…how about Proprioception
Too many people get the mindset that strengthening and stretching is all you need for success. Unfortunately muscle and joint timing are just as important, but often forgotten. The shoulder is like as a baseball on a tee. I’m not a huge golf fan, but I was to ask my semi-professional golfing Uncle I think he’d agree a baseball would fall off a tee. Luckily, the body has ligaments, tendons, and most importantly muscles holding the baseball on the tee. Muscles timing is essential to ensure force production. If the shoulder doesn’t lie in the correct position, the ligaments and tendons are at risk for being run over. Firing patterns change in people with injured shoulders. Improved firing is essential to protect the passive structures (tendons and ligaments) and optimize force production. Proper timing at the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) and scapulothoracic joint (shoulder blade against the back) will protect the essential joints in the shoulder.
The rotator cuff muscles hold the shoulder in the place and react to movement. These muscles suction the head of the humerus (upper arm) into the joint. Unfortunately, when these muscles fatigue the head of the humerus can migrate and pinch, rub or trample passive structures in the way.
Proper muscle timing of the second essential joint for shoulder health. This joint is controlled by the upward and downward rotator muscle. These muscles work as a pulley system, rotating the shoulder up or down depending on the activity.
#15 Curls are for the Girls and Shoulder
I mean who doesn’t want big biceps. I’ll never forget when I was training in West Hollywood and saw the rapper Flo’rida (not a huge fan, but easy to spot with his Flo’rida tattoo on his arm) walk into Train West Hollywood with his entourage and trainer. His body guards were massive 300 pound World Strongest men competitors and his trainer was a ripped, vascular, defined, Russian female! I think, this girl had the most defined biceps in the world! Her arm was walking around with a baseball on the bicep. I have never seen a muscle that defined, ever, it was a little creepy. Anyway, the bicpes are a popular muscle to workout. Unfortunately, the biceps attach to the shoulder joint and labrum (covering of the joint). When stressed and strained excessively the biceps tendon can pull and tug on the labrum causing increased stress to the joint. In unstable shoulders, the biceps tendon will try to stabilize the shoulder if the shoulder has poor muscle timing, but once again this pulls on a bad part of the shoulder and can perpetuate pain. Lay off curls for the girls, especially incline curls.
This concludes the 10 minute solution: shoulder pain part II. Next week I’ll have more videos and descriptions of the exact exercises to do in 10 minutes to prevent and alleviate shoulder pain. John Improve and prevent shoulder injuries today with the Swimmer’s Shoulder System.