Weak Point Trainer – ShouldersBy Feature Editor Regie Simmons
It started slowly.
First, it was a discomfort you noticed after your shoulder workout. Like most athletes you chalked it up to going H.A.M. in the gym. No pain, no gain, right? After a few weeks, that discomfort grew into something more, so you applied a little Icy Hot thinking things would be better soon. Generally speaking, you’re always sore for a few days after a killer workout. D.O.M.S. baby!
After a few weeks, things didn’t seem to be getting better, so you swung by the local sporting goods store to purchase a shoulder brace and an ice pack. Certainly, supportive care and a few days off was the
Several months have passed and the dull pains have now turned into shooting pain when conducting routine activities like putting on your seat belt, giving a teammate a high five, or tossing a ball with a friend. Maybe you’ve even gone to see a doctor for X-rays, only to be told that your shoulder(s) look healthy. If that’s the case, why are you still in pain? Great question. And, the
answer might be that you have a muscle imbalance.
A muscle imbalance occurs when an overused/over developed muscle exerts tension on a joint that is supported by a weaker opposing muscle. This increased tension pulls the joint out of alignment causing pain and
discomfort. This misalignment isn’t something that will show up on X-rays, but it is definitely noticeable to anyone who has ever had a significant one.
The human body is all about balance, so any repetitive movement that results in an over developed muscle or muscle group has the potential to create muscle imbalances. Just to set the record straight, everyone has muscle imbalances. If you pick up your toddler with the same arm every time, brush your teeth with same hand or jump off the same foot, you are creating muscle imbalances through repetition. For the recreational weightlifter however, muscle imbalances can lead to constant pain, sleepless nights, wasted training, and also injury.
Two separate studies published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research demonstrated that recreational weightlifters are “predisposed to mobility imbalances as a result of training.” These studies included almost 200 male and female lifters and non-lifters, and specifically examined the muscles of the shoulder joint.
Certainly, I am not suggesting that weightlifters are more prone to muscle imbalances than the average person, but I am suggesting that they engage in repetitive movements that are
designed to stimulate muscle growth. And, let’s face it; there are some muscles and muscle groups that get all the attention during training sessions. These three things—repetition, increased muscle strength, and a concentrated focus—create a perfect storm that sets the athlete up for imbalances and injury.
Shoulders: A Common Site of Muscle Imbalance
The shoulder joint is the most versatile in the body and is recognized for its ability to perform a wide range of motions. A healthy shoulder is capable of flexion, extension, hyperextension, abduction,
adduction, medial rotation, lateral rotation, and circumduction. The problem with such a mobile and versatile joint, however, is that it’s prone to overuse and damage. The shoulder lacks bony and
ligamentous structures which provide support and stability to other joints of the body.
According to a paper published in the journal American Family Physician, athletes in particular are susceptible to certain acute shoulder injuries. Three of the most common soft tissue injuries—dislocation, sprain, and
rotator cuff tears—are most often seen in athletes and other active individuals.
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