The shoulder is a joint constantly in motion and is the most flexible joint in the entire human body, our shoulder joint is formed by the union of the humerus, the scapula (or shoulder blade), and the clavicle (or collarbone). Commonly thought of as a single joint, the shoulder is actually made up of two separate joints - the glenohumeral and acromioclavicular joints. These two joints work together to allow the arm both to move in a large circle and to rotate around its axis at the shoulder. Due to the shoulder being so mobile it’s unfortunately easy to injure. The best way to combat/prevent a shoulder injury is to strengthen the muscles and ligaments of the shoulder known as the rotator cuff.
Strengthening the rotator cuff is imperative for any athlete in any sport. These muscles around the shoulder are extremely important for stabilizing the shoulder joint, which can ultimately assist in preventing shoulder injuries. The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles: Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus, Subscapularis, and Teres Minor. All of these muscles give stability to the shoulder and each has a specific, unique attachment to the upper humerus, or arm. Each muscle works in conjunction with the others to provide the harmony of motion essential for maintaining the muscular stability of the shoulders and preventing injuries such as rotator cuff tendonitis or rotator cuff tears. These muscles work in union with the labrum to keep the shoulder in the best positions when exercising or participating in sports. It’s worth diving into these individual muscles that make up the rotator cuff to fully understand how it can prevent shoulder injury.
The supraspinatus muscle originates on the supraspinatus fossa of the scapula. This particular muscle inserts on the highest portion of the facet of the greater tubercle of the humerus. The suprascapular nerve innervates this muscle. This muscle essentially allows for lateral rotation of the humerus and initiates the abduction of the arm.
This muscle originates on the infraspinatus fossa of the posterior aspect of the scapula. The muscle inserts on the middle aspect of the greater tubercle of the humerus and is innervated by the suprascapular nerve. This muscle serves to laterally rotate the humerus.
The subscapularis muscle originates on the subscapular fossa of the scapula and inserts on the lesser tubercle of the scapula. This particular muscle is innervated by the upper and lower subscapular nerves and serves to medially rotate the humerus.
Lastly, the teres minor muscle originates on the upper aspect of the lateral border of the scapula and inserts on the lower part of the greater tubercle of the humerus. The teres minor muscle is innervated by the axillary nerve and serves to adduct and rotate the humerus laterally.
Now that we’ve discussed the different muscles that make up the rotator cuff let's talk about how we can strengthen those muscles to prevent some of the most common shoulder injuries. The most common shoulder injuries are Rotator Cuff Tendonitis, Rotator Cuff Bursitis, Rotator Cuff Tears, Labral Tears, Shoulder Contusion, Glenohumeral Ligament Strains and Tears. Rotator cuff injuries can affect individuals across a multitude of lifestyles and fitness levels. These injuries can be devastating to a person’s well being and athletic performance, and can even make general day-to-day activities quite difficult.The most common injuries can be caused by over-exercising, lack of exercise, improper form, heavy and improperly controlled weights, or even accidents in the gym while using weights. Here are some exercises that are sure to keep your rotator cuff nice and strong :
Internal and External Rotation Dumbbell Curls.
Abduction Shoulder Dumbbell curls.
Forward Flexion Shoulder Raises/Forward Raises.
Pendulum Exercises: Circle & Reverse Circles.
Pendulum Exercises: Crosses.
I would recommend completing 2-3 sets of each of these exercises with repetitions of 15-20. Your shoulder should be the last thing getting injured if you use these exercises to strengthen it properly.