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Shoulder Alignment Exercises
The shoulder joint is one of the most versatile joints in your body. According to the American College of Sports medicine, some experts believe that the upper extremities can assume more than 1,600 positions in a three-dimensional plane. This ability by the shoulder to move in so many directions is useful for our daily lives, but it also makes the shoulder more prone to injury. Maintaining strength in all the muscles that support and align the shoulder joint can reduce your chances of injury and give you the ability to perform more movements with confidence. You need to know what exercises to do, in order to properly maintain this strength and alignment in the shoulder.
The muscles that sit on the top of your shoulder are called the deltoids. They are divided into three sections. The largest section -- the anterior deltoids -- sit on the front of your shoulder and assist in your upper arm moving upward and forwards. Many people participate in exercises using the anterior deltoids, such as bench press, shoulder press, front raises, and lateral raises. Some of these exercises also work the second section of the deltoids -- the medial deltoids. Most exercises that you do for shoulders use these two sections. The third and smallest section of the deltoids is the posterior deltoids. It is very common for individuals to not include exercises that work this section of the deltoids. This is one very common reason why shoulder imbalances and resulting mis-alignments occur. To keep your shoulders aligned and help prevent injury, make sure to include posterior deltoid exercises in your routine.
Rotator Cuff Exercises
There are four smaller muscles that surround the shoulder joint and provide proper alignment and stability to it. These are called the rotator cuff muscles. These are not power muscles; they're designed for endurance. They are used to keep the shoulder joint in the proper position as you use your arms for various activities. If the rotator cuff muscles fatigue quickly, then the larger muscle groups -- such as the deltoids and pectoralis muscles -- will overpower them and the result can lead to pain. Rotator cuff muscle exercises can be done with rubber tubing and light dumbells. Repetitions should be high and the exercises should include interior and exterior rotation at the shoulder joint. A quick search on the internet for rotator cuff exercises will lead you to some good illustrations and information.
There are five muscles that surround your scapula and they are used to support the scapula and shoulder joint as you move your upper arm through various positions. You must always remember to balance the front of your body with the back of your body when exercising. Individuals who only train the muscles that they see when they look at themselves in the mirror are prone to injury due to muscle imbalancing across the body. For every major muscle group that your work, make sure you work the opposite muscle group as well. In this particular case, you may be doing some good chest and shoulder exercises while forgetting to work your upper back and rear shoulder muscles. Make sure you include good upper and lower back strength training in your routine.
Stretching for Alignment
Aligning the shoulder joint through exercise should also include a good stretching routine. As you work your chest and shoulder muscles it's not uncommon to see your shoulders start to roll forward over time, as those muscles get tight. Having this "forward" posture pulls your neck and back out of alignment, along with your shoulder joints. It is important to stretch your chest, back, and shoulder joints with a good stretching program. Many yoga and Pilates programs include stretching exercises which can help you improve your posture and reduce the chance for injury.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Rotator Cuff Problems
- Family Doctor: Rotator Cuff Exercises
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- Rotator Cuff and Shoulder Conditioning Program. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. October 2012.
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- Posture and Back Health. Harvard Medical School. March 2014.
- Shoulder Pain: 3 Most Common Causes and How to Fix It. Cleveland Clinic. September 2019.
- Torn Rotator Cuff. Emory Healthcare.
- Scapular (Shoulder Blade) Disorders. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
- Physical Therapist (PT) Education Overview. American Physical Therapy Association.
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- "Shoulder Surgery Exercise Guide" American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2007.
Paul Elsass started writing in 1986. He has written articles for the Clinical Exercise Physiology Association and multiple medical-fitness centers. Elsass has certifications through the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Texas and a Master of Science in Management from Northern Arizona University.