Some Healthy Guidelines for Strength Training of the Shoulder

You know what they say in July? Suns out, guns out! In order to safely build strength and establish an effective weight lifting program for the shoulders and arms, it is important to understand some key concepts. If you are returning to weight lifting post shoulder surgery, you should get clearance from your doctor and therapist. You should have full range of motion and good strength in your rotator cuff and scapular muscles prior to increasing load to the shoulder. Otherwise, lifting could be more risky than beneficial!

Here are a few tips for prevention of shoulder injuries:

  • Do warm up sets for each weight exercise – warm ups are with light weights!
  • Avoid overload and maximum lifts – try to avoid reaching true muscle failure
  • Do not push through pain in the shoulder
  • Avoid excessive frequency and get adequate rest between sessions
  • Build up resistance slowly and gradually
  • Exercise should only increase by increments 10-15% every 10-14 days to avoid injury
  • Be consistent and regular with your exercise schedule

Warm up:

As previously mentioned in the past blog post, warming up is essential to injury prevention! Using light weights, you can start improving mobility and vascularity to the shoulders by doing rotator cuff and scapular strengthening. Weights for this should be very light, ranging from one pound and progressing to a maximum of 5 pounds. Some examples of this include standing external rotation, shoulder extensions, and prone middle trap exercises.

Upper extremity exercises:

Some exercises for your shoulders that can safely be performed include:

  • Bicep curls (machine or free weights)
  • Tricep pulldowns (machine or free weights)
  • Bent over row with dumbbells or row machine
  • Cable pull downs to front of chest (always pull in front of chest, do not pull behind head)
  • Chest press or bench press (avoid wide grip or elbows moving too far past chest)
  • Don’t forget your scapular stabilizers – I’s, T’s and Y’s
  • Planks with shoulder blades stabilized

Exercises to take caution with:

  • Military press – this exercise stresses the rotator cuff and shoulder ligaments. Never perform with weight behind your head; you should always be able to see the weight in front of you.
  • Forward raises – Do not use palm down grip. This exercise is much safer using thumbs up.
  • Standing lateral raises – Should be avoided due to impinging and wearing effect on rotator cuff. These can be substituted in prone or bent over.
  • Tricep dips – Try not to lower yourself so that your elbow bends more than 90 degrees due to strain on the front of the shoulder.
  • Tricep extensions – It is much safer for the shoulder to perform a pulldown or a kickback with a free weight.
  • Upright row – Do not lift weight higher than your chin to avoid impingement.

Cool Down/Stretch

Always end with a cool down – this is an appropriate time for static stretching. Stay tuned for more information on ending your workout!

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