Blog #2- Shoulder Prehab

With the Open coming up in the next couple of weeks, I thought it would be beneficial to discuss the importance of shoulder prehab. Having strong, stable shoulders is the key to optimizing performance overhead. In a recent CrossFit journal article, it was cited that over 80% of workouts from involved at least one exercise involving transfer of force through the shoulder girdle. With this being said, prehab work is always recommended for anyone looking to improve and maintain shoulder function as well as prevention of injury.

The shoulder is an example of a ball and socket joint (pictured here).  There are 4 muscles, referred to as the rotator cuff, that work to provide dynamic stability to the shoulder joint. The majority of the stability in the shoulder joint comes from the rotator cuff muscles. In CrossFit, movements such as overhead lifting, gymnastics, kipping movements, and even activities such as rowing require proper function of the rotator cuff.

Imbalances in the shoulder musculature and the rotator cuff can put increased stressed on the shoulder and increase the risk of injury. One of the main examples of imbalances that we commonly see is an overused, fatigued, or strained rotator cuff. Shoulder prehab can help us maintain a stable strength base in the rotator cuff and surrounding muscles between our shoulder blades, as well as adequate mobility. Both mobility and stability are equally important when it comes to a healthy shoulder, however, I often see more athletes focusing on mobility instead of stability in the gym. Many times, if someone “tweaks” their shoulder, they immediately start focusing on foam rolling, taking a lacrosse ball to their pecs, or performing static stretching. While this is beneficial at times, more often than not, the root cause of their “tweak” or shoulder pain is inadequate stability. As we get closer to the Open, our goal is to maintain shoulder health. This can be done by performing mobility exercises, but also focusing on prehab including activation and strengthening exercises to ensure that the proper muscles are primed for the movements we are going to perform.

I would like to share with you some great prehab exercises that can be done on a daily basis to ensure that we are building that stable shoulder base. Most of these exercises have a focus on targeting the back of the shoulders for improved posture so that we can safely move our shoulders through a full range of motion. (This is not a complete listing of exercises, for a more expansive list, please click here.)

  1. Push Ups with a “Plus” -this is basically a “scap push up”, an exercise that we have done in our warm-ups during class, can also be done on a pull up bar to prime our body for movements on the pull up rig and activate our shoulders.

  2. Shoulder W’s and YTLs - ensure proper positioning of our shoulders while also strengthening the rotator cuff.

  3. Banded Face Pulls - activate and strengthen the muscles needed to perform overhead movements.

  4. Band Pull Aparts on a Foam Roller - provides work on stability and mobility as one exercise! Works on the postural stabilizers as well as providing a stretch to the chest and the upper back.

  5. Reach, Roll and Lift - this exercises helps to work on mobility and stability while limiting the ability to compensate with other areas.

Lastly, I would like to discuss the use of CrossOver Symmetry for prehab. CrossOver Symmetry is a program that has been designed to train specific movement patterns and not only isolate certain muscle groups. The goal of this program is to increase shoulder girdle strength while also developing coordination among certain muscle groups so that we can accomplish more complex movements (i.e. snatches, jerks, etc.). The program assists in improving posture, core strength as well as shoulder dysfunction. Many of us use the CrossOver Symmetry bands at the gym, however, it is important to make sure we are using them correctly and have watched the videos on the CrossOver Symmetry website to ensure that we are executing this program correctly. Performing these movements wrong could be detrimental to your shoulder health.

If anyone has any specific questions on shoulder prehab, feel free to reach out to me! :)