Statistically, your shoulders are the most injured part of your entire body. This should be easy to understand, because there are so many motions involving shoulder movement that the chances of injury are significantly escalated. Your shoulders are involved in a major way every time you lift something, reach for something, pick something up off the ground, or take something off a high shelf.
Your shoulders are even more involved – and more strained – every time you have a workout at the gym. While some shoulder injuries are relatively minor, there are also some fairly serious issues that can occur, and some of these injuries commonly happen during intense gym workouts. For instance, you might easily have a separated shoulder or a dislocated shoulder as a result of using too much weight when lifting, or when extending a workout longer than you’re capable of.
When you separate your shoulder, it involves a disconnection between the collar bone and the shoulder blade. A dislocated shoulder is much different and involves a total loss of contact between the ball and socket of your shoulder. Both of these injuries can be extremely painful, and both will require an extended period of healing before the shoulder can be used normally again.
In some cases, it will be necessary to use MRI shoulder anatomy to detect the extent of the damage, so that appropriate steps can be taken to restore the shoulder to full functionality. In this article, we’ll discuss some ways you can protect your shoulders when working out, so as to limit the possibility of incurring any kind of serious injury.
Avoiding shoulder injuries when working out
Most gym workouts call for you to take your shoulders through a full range of motion, all while under the stress of also lifting a very heavy weight. This is a situation which is just perfect for sustaining all kinds of injuries, both major and minor, and that means you’ll need to take some steps to prevent those kinds of injuries. If you can keep your shoulders loose and flexible throughout your workout, it will go a long way toward avoiding these potential injuries. However, there are some other ways you can stave off harm to your shoulders as well:
- Scapular positioning – This is a major aspect of shoulder injuries, and if people had proper scapular positioning throughout the day, a great many rotator cuff injuries could be avoided. Most fitness experts recommend that you try to keep your shoulders down and back, while maintaining an open chest. This creates a wide channel for your shoulders to move through and will reduce or eliminate damage to your rotator cuff.
- Keep elbows in – Anytime you do bench presses with weights or you’re performing push-ups, it’s possible for the positioning of your hands to cause shoulder pain. When your hands are spread too widely apart or your elbows aren’t directly under the body, it will cause your rotator cuff to rub against the acromion. This is a situation that often leads to a torn labrum or rotator cuff. To maintain the correct form while weightlifting, your hands should be kept just slightly wider apart than your shoulders are. Your elbow should be within a few inches of your body, so as to prevent any impingement and allow the greatest possible movement.
- Maintain control when exercising – One of the easiest ways to injure your shoulder during a workout is by rushing the process. It’s very easy to injure your shoulders during pull-ups if you don’t maintain control on the way down. Keep in mind that the tendons in your body can easily stretch to handle any type of heavy load when that load is applied slowly and in a controlled fashion. However, when it’s done quickly, there is less opportunity for your tendons to stretch, and much more opportunity for them to be damaged. This is one big reason why weightlifters can easily tear rotator cuffs, by losing control and allowing the exercise to occur too quickly.
- Shoulder flexibility – When your shoulders don’t have the appropriate flexibility, they’ll be forced to operate in positions that are far below optimal. This makes it very important to keep your shoulders flexible and loose, so that you’ll be able to use proper lifting techniques. There are a number of shoulder stretches you can do which will help to keep them more flexible and prepare yourself for a full-fledged gym workout.
- Avoid hazardous exercises – Some exercises carry a very low injury risk to the shoulder, for example, doing push-ups. However, there are some high-risk exercises you can do in the gym, such as the Sumo high-pull deadlift, or the upright row. If you can maintain excellent form through these exercises, you won’t have any issues. However, the vast majority of people do not perform these exercises according to optimal form and expose themselves to the risk of serious shoulder injury.
- Build up your rotator cuff – The rotator cuff on your shoulder stabilizes it and assists when it’s necessary to perform any kind of movement. However, your rotator cuff is also relatively weak, so it’s very easy for it to become irritated or injured. When your rotator cuff is damaged, it cannot do its job correctly and that can cause additional injuries. Two good exercises for strengthening your rotator cuff muscles are the prone shoulder abductions and the banded external rotations. If you do these conscientiously before a gym workout, you’ll minimize the likelihood of any injury to your rotator cuff.
By following some of the recommendations listed above, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding shoulder injuries and losing valuable time between your workouts. A little caution can prevent a serious shoulder injury that might take you out of action for an extended timeframe.