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Give me that Glenoid Health

July 22, 2012

Next time you’re at the gym I want you to take a moment to observe during your rest periods. Make a mental note, the number of people performing chest and shoulder movements in comparison to those performing rowing movements. Next, watch how many of those swing their arm around or grasp at their shoulder after performing a chest or shoulder movement. I’m sure more than a few people reading this right now feel a burning sensation where their front deltoid and upper pectoral meet, or at the rear of the shoulder after performing pushing movements.

The numbers are staggering: it’s been estimated that nearly 40% of weight lifting injuries are to the shoulder joint, and 30% of those injuries are severe enough to restrict training or cause individuals to seek medical attention. Traditional weight training and bodybuilding routines create muscular imbalances and predispose the shoulder to injury by placing the joint in biomechanical unfavorable positions, such as externally rotating the upper arm at the bottom of the ROM. Furthermore, programs biased toward specific bodyparts generally place emphasis on developing the large primary movers while neglecting the smaller stabilization muscles required for mobility, balance, and unimpaired shoulder function.

In a nut shell, here is what occurs via a traditional bodybuilding program: The delts, internal rotators (pecs and lats), and upper trap fibers are significantly strengthened. However, the strength of the external rotators, lower trap fibers, and scapula retractors (rhomboids, rear delts, and mid trap fibers) are not strengthened. A significant strength and postural imbalance thus ensues.

So what’s actually occurring? During pressing movements the scapula stabilizers fatigue prematurely and the shoulder blades elevate and protract (come forward). This deviation from correct posture forces the rotator cuff muscles to work harder to stabilize the head of the humorous (upper arm) in the shoulder socket. The rotator cuff muscles prematurely fatigue, the head of the humorous elevates in the shoulder socket and impinges (pinches) tendons, ligaments and nerves against the acromium (that bones process at the top of your shoulder).

Now keep in mind, the shoulder itself is an inherently inflexible joint not designed to bear large loads. Thus, it’s no wonder that strength and postural imbalances combined with overuse result in impingement, rotator cuff strains and tendonitis, subacromial bursitis, and multi-directional instability.

Next week I’ll discuss exercises to avoid, ways to modify potentially harmful movements, stretches to increase capsule flexibility, and exercises to strengthen the external rotators, scapular stabilizers and lower trap fibers. Remember, you cannot build a big upper body with your arm in a sling.

Jason Cholewa

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