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Shoulder strengthening exercises

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Shoulder injuries are not only common from sports and fitness-related activity, but can also result from sitting in an office. Here are three simple exercises that you can perform daily to strengthen the shoulders.

The shoulder joint (a.k.a. the glenohumeral joint) is a ball and socket joint comprised of the scapula, humerus and numerous associated ligaments and myotendinous attachments. The shoulder also happens to be a commonly injured area, particularly in today’s society with the prevalence of not only sports and exercise, but also office work and computer use.

For instance, in office workers, the neck and shoulder are the areas most susceptible to musculoskeletal symptoms. Complaints of pain in the arms, neck and shoulder areas are recognized significant causes for occupational illness and can lead to frequent absenteeism from work as well as higher medical expenses and a reduced quality of life.

Musculoskeletal disorders account for about one-third of all registered occupational disorders in North America, Scandinavian countries and Japan, according to the journal Environmental Health. As such, strengthening the shoulders is important in order to minimize the likelihood of injury, due to the time we spend in the office and on computers, as well as sporting and exercise activities!

Here are three simple exercises that you can perform daily to strengthen the shoulders. The only equipment you need to do these exercises are a wall, something comfortable to lie on, a small towel, and two small full bottles of water.

We recommend doing three sets of 10 per day for each of the exercises below, and recommend that you speak to, and are assessed by a trained healthcare provider before beginning these exercises to ensure they are safe for you to perform.

1. Wall push-up plus

The first exercise to strengthen your shoulders is called the wall push-up plus. The “plus” part of this exercise will activate the serratus anterior muscle (a.k.a. the “boxer’s muscle”), which can help stabilize and support the shoulder.

Begin by facing a wall and lean on it with outstretched arms, having a bit of a bend in the elbows. Don’t be so close to the wall that the push-up pushes you off the wall, but not so far that all your body weight is upon the wall.

Perform a push-up, bending the elbows enough to bring your torso to about half of the distance to the wall. When you reach the end point, reach your arms a little bit more forward to activate the serratus anterior (do this without humping your upper back like a cat) thus achieving the “plus” part of the exercise. You should feel a good stretch here, and no pain. If you feel pain, your arms might be too far up the wall. Adjust according to how your body is feeling.

2. Sidelying external rotation

The second exercise is a sidelying glenohumeral internal/external rotation exercise. First, lie on your side and rest your head on a pillow to support your neck. You can put your downside arm under the pillow to support you, or you can rest it on the ground.

Place a small rolled-up towel under the upside arm above the elbow, and hug the arm in so the towel doesn’t fall. Bend your upside arm at 90° (palm facing your stomach) and grab hold of a small water bottle.

To start the exercise, rotate the upside arm away from the body, while still hugging the towel in—and then bring your arm back to the start position. Make sure to not rotate the upper back or bend your wrist while doing the exercise. When finished, rotate your body to lay on the other side and repeat!

More Insight: Check out this great article on determining your running style.

Authors: Drs. Marco and Paolo De Ciantis are Toronto-based chiropractic doctors and co-owners of Sports Specialist Rehab Centre. The identical twins specialize in pain and injury prevention, working with a range of patients from athletes looking to improve their performance to individuals who simply want day-to-day tasks to be easier, in an effort to restore optimal well-being. They are regular contributors to Optimyz Magazine.


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