Best Shoulder Exercises

There are hundreds of muscles in the body, each with specific demands and functions. However, it is important to understand that while all of these muscles are necessary for movement and life itself, there are a few that are just a little more important than the rest. The shoulder complex is one of these lucky few. But what seats them higher up on the list than, say, the chest?

The shoulders as a whole are responsible for a numerous amount of tasks performed on a daily basis. These tasks may include a movement as simple as reaching up onto a high bookshelf for some good reading, or the more complex throw of a baseball pitcher. The shoulder complex functions to stabilize the upper body and assist as a secondary mover during a variety of pushing and pulling movements. To be rather blunt, the shoulders muscles allow for flexion, extension, internal rotation, external rotation, abduction, and adduction. In other words, they make a little bit of everything happen.

The shoulder are primarily consists of a series of muscles called the deltoids. These anterior, middle, and posterior deltoids each take on the responsibility of performing each of the above movements. In addition to these directional deltoids, the four rotator cuff muscles are also considered to be part of the shoulder complex. These muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. As is implied by the term rotator cuff, this series of muscles allows for rotation of the shoulder. This group of muscles is one of the most commonly injured in high school, collegiate, and professional sports.

Unfortunately, stuffing all of this together into a working shoulder training scheme is a little tougher than it might seem. While the deltoids are the bigger and more visible muscles of the shoulder, this alone will not merit them all of the attention. While they are certainly essential to overall shoulder strength, health, and size, it would be extremely unwise to leave out the rotator cuff. As mentioned above, the rotator cuff is exceptionally tender and is very commonly injured. Even those who have never entered a single form of athletic competition in their lifetime may be susceptible to rotator cuff injury. With that being said – onto the exercises!

1) Overhead Press. This term encompasses any movement that requires a press above this head. This includes the military press, shoulder press, push press, and all of the other small variations to these movements. The implementation of overhead pressing is necessary to guarantee overall shoulder function. It is a complex exercise that involves not only the anterior deltoids, but also the triceps and upper back for stabilization.

2) Rowing. Whether vertical or horizontal rowing, pull-ups or seated cable rows, the benefits will be seen in full. While pressing primarily recruits the anterior deltoids, rowing allows the middle and posterior deltoids some work. Some common examples of rowing include seated cable rows, pull-ups, chin-ups, face pulls (described next), upright rows, bent-over rows, and single-arm dumbbell rows.

3) Rotation. This is where the rotator cuff comes in. Because internal and external rotation movements are rarely performed in the daily routine, it is especially critical to ensure they are allowed proper attention in the weight room. One of the most simple rotation exercises is the face pull. It actually kills two birds with one stone by providing a rowing movement with external rotation. Set a pulley to forehead level. Grasp a rope attachment with palms neutral, or facing in. Step back and proceed to extend arms until straight. Hands remaining neutral, pull the rope towards the forehead as if performing a row. Allow the hands to extend to both sides of the head and then hold. With elbows fixed, rotate your shoulders backward. This is done be keeping the elbows still while raising the hands toward the head. Other rotation exercises include dumbbell external and internal rotations and cuban raises.

Making use of all three of these key areas will allow the shoulder proper balance, symmetry, and overall strength and health.


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