MISTAKE #4: IGNORING ROTATOR CUFF
Out of all the pains I have suffered throughout my fitness lifecycle, my shoulder pain was the most sustained & debilitating of them all. As it turned out, the source of my pain wasn’t the large, protruding shoulders that I saw in the mirror; it was the inconspicuous conglomerate of 4 small muscles that live UNDER the shoulders – the rotator cuff. On my quest to become the biggest I possibly could, I completely ignored the significance of this muscle group… until I found myself in the therapists office in agonizing pain, begging for surgery. Understanding the structure of the rotator cuff may shed some light on how important it is to optimal shoulder functionality.
Take a golf ball, put it on a tee. Put your finger on top of the ball to hold it onto the tee. Now turn the ball & tee 90 degrees, so that the tee is parallel to the ground. What you are now looking at is a model of your shoulder – the tee is the shoulder socket, the golf ball is the head of the humerus (ball of shoulder), and the finger holding the ball is the rotator cuff.
What happens when you remove your finger? The ball drops to the floor. This illustrates one of the primary tasks of the rotator cuff: anchoring the shoulder in place by compressing it into the socket. The rotator cuff also initiates arm movement in all planes of motion. Lack of a strong, healthy rotator cuff can lead to a vast array of problems, including shoulder instability, mobility imbalances, and muscle tears.
And, if you think that your heavy military presses and heavy dumbbell lateral raises will target the rotator cuff, think again. Constant execution of the same shoulder exercise, in the same plane of motion, with excessive weight is a recipe for disaster. Light weights with multiple repetitions in all planes of motion is the best way to thoroughly target the rotator cuff. Since the shoulder is a 3 dimensional joint that moves in virtually every direction, that’s how we need to train it. So, don’t wait until the last minute – train smart, and train with variability. Train to prevent the fire, not to extinguish it.