When we set out to design safe, effective exercise programs, we always take time to focus on risk of injury…and our goal is to remove that risk.

Of the many joints we have in our bodies, the shoulder is perhaps the most at-risk. This is simply because of the multi-directional movement capability.

Our shoulders can do a lot of things and it is a marvel engineering…but that does also create a potential to over-stress parts of the shoulder.

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The result is a minimum of inflammation, and that can lead to more severe problems. This is why it’s important to know hot to work out your shoulders safely and correctly.

A little physiology here for those who might be new to this: The shoulder “joint” is not really a “joint”. It’s not a ball-and-socket, tough structure like the hip, for example.

Instead, it is essentially a “wing” (acromion) on top of the upper arm bone (humerus). It is held together by “straps” (rotator cuff muscles). Now, many think of the rotator cuff as one muscle, but it is actually four.

These “straps that cause the upper arm bone to swivel, allowing the arm to swing out, rotate, etc. Think of the shoulder, as with any joint, as a “hinge”. For the upper arm to “hinge”, it must swivel, turn, or “rotate”…hence the name “rotator cuff”.

The shoulder consists of two levels of muscle. This rotator cuff is the deep layer, holding and stabilizing the shoulder.

The surface layer is the “deltoid”, consisting of three heads: front, side, and rear, using plain English. This is the more powerful muscle group that we see in a nice, rounded, muscular shoulder.

We need to train each layer appropriately.

How to Work Out Your Shoulders

Rotator Cuff

This part of the shoulder can be trained quite easily. The best way is to use a rubber exercise band/tube. Secure one end of the band to a sturdy structure at a chest-high level of height.

Two movements can be done and they can be done at two different orientations. Begin by holding the band in one hand, stand upright facing the anchor end.

Arm should be in a down position with your elbow pinned against your side, bent 90 degrees so your forearm is pointing toward that same anchor end. Next, step back until you feel a slight tension on the band.

Now begin rotating your upper arm so your forearm starts to swing away to the side. Keep your elbow pinned against your side!

Keep going until you feel the tension increase. You should be able to rotate 45-50 degrees safely. This is working the “external” rotators….much like a tennis backhand shot.

Next, you can start in the same position, but now swing the arm inward, across your body. Again you will get 45-50 degrees or so and this works the “internal” rotators, much like a tennis forehand shot.

Now for the second orientation. Rather than pin the elbows against your side, we’ll change the elbow position. Extend your arm straight out to the side like an airplane wing.

Next, bend the elbow 90 degrees so it is again facing the anchor end of the band directly in front of you. Position yourself off center so your forearm points straight toward the anchor. Use palms-down hand position.

Now begin rotating the arm upward so your forearm starts to swing upward. Keep the elbow still…it just swivels. In this orientation, you might get close to 90 degrees of movement but only rotate until you feel a good tension in the shoulder. This is the tennis backhand version.

Next, stand in the same start position but this time, face away from the anchor end. Start with your forearm pointing straight up. Now, swivel the arm so the forearms swings downward, again at almost 90 degrees. This is the tennis forehand version.

Use light resistance here. These are not big muscles and they are a bit delicate so you simply want to make sure they are strong enough to provide stabilization.

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Deltoid

Now we get to the more traditional strengthening movements. I recommend two movements…that’s right…only TWO.

There are a couple of additional movements but these two are very effective and they hit the deltoid muscles quite safely, if performed properly.

Shoulder Press

I prefer to do this seated, using a small bench seat with a back. Sit upright with a dumbbell in each hand. The next step is critical. People usually injure themselves, not performing a movement, rather getting in and out of a movement!

Hold the dumbbells in a hammer grip (like you’re hammering a nail), resting on your thighs. Your forearms should be resting along your thighs with the dumbbells near your knees.

Swing your arms up from the shoulders, until your elbows are directly out in front of each shoulder, bent 90 degrees, forearms pointing straight up. Now swing the entire arm structure to the side until the dumbbells are right next to your ears, palms facing forward.

This is the “start” position. Your shoulder should be bent 90 degrees and your elbows should also be at 90 degrees. Next, begin pushing the dumbbells upward, allowing the natural “arc” of the upper arm pivoting from the shoulder.

The arms will straighten as you go, and the dumbbells will arc toward the center mark a bit. Forearms should remain completely vertical throughout the movement.

Stop just short of locking out the arm, then reverse back to start and repeat for reps. After the final rep, swing the arms back in front of you and lower the arm structure back down to the thighs where you began.

Lateral Raises

This aims for the side head (medial head). Perform this standing upright with a split stance (one foot forward, the other back), arms hanging down at your sides, holding a light dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip.

Keeping the arms locked, begin pushing your hands directly out to the side. Your arms will begin to swing outward and upward. Push until your arm is directly out to your side, hands near shoulder height…NO HIGHER! Your palms should now be facing downward.

This hits the medial head of the deltoid quite well, but also hits the rear head safely too.

Shoulder work is vital to good physical health so focusing on perfect form is a must! Try these movements and feel free to send comments or questions through my WatchFit profile!

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