Shoulder pain and shoulder injuries related to the rotator cuff are common issues for mountain bikers as well as many other athletes. This article will provide you with background knowledge and practical suggestions on how to prevent or improve conditions of this muscle group through stabilization and strengthening exercises.
Here we’ll discuss stabilizing and strengthening the muscles of the shoulder complex to help you keep your shoulders in great condition.
Many exercise protocols tend to place an emphasis on compound movements and load training and do not include enough movements focusing on motor control. But for injury prevention and proper strengthening of the shoulder complex it is important to include smaller and more intricate movements which will help stimulate the superficial structures of the shoulder joint which the heavier compound lifts bypass.
No weight should be used at first with the goal of developing perfect movement patterns in flexion, abduction, scapular plane, external and internal range of motion. This will become the baseline of movement to build from.
Although core stability is not the purpose of this article, it should be assessed as a strong core providing proximal stability will allow proper distal mobility and movement patterns of the shoulder.
Four Point Kneeling Shoulder Flexion
(The bar on the back is to display correct spinal alignment)
Kneel on the floor on all fours as in picture 1. Ensure correct spinal alignment, draw your belly button in tight to spine to engage your core and slowly extend one of your arms directly in front of you keeping the palm down and arm straight. Once your arm is in alignment with your hips and shoulder, pause for 2 seconds before returning to the start position and repeating on the opposite side. Complete 10 reps for each arm. Repeat for 2 sets.
Scapula Press with Resistance Band
Begin by holding a resistance band so it is wrapped around the mid back. Elbows should be straight. Stand with a neutral scapular position and good upright posture. Extend arms forward by rounding shoulders forward allowing your scapula to spread apart. Slowly return to start position and repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Blackburn T Scapula Retraction
The Blackburn T is one of the most effective exercises to strengthen weakened posterior deltoid, supraspinatus and trapezius muscles.
Begin lying face down on the floor or a massage type table. A towel may be placed under the forehead to eliminate cervical extension and activation of the upper trapezius muscles. Arms should be extended to the sides at shoulder level with the hands at 9 and 3 o’clock position. Make the hands into a soft fist with the thumbs up. Lift hands and arms toward ceiling. Then squeeze the shoulder blades together. Neck muscles should remain relaxed. Hold for 5 seconds before returning to starting position. Repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Supine Resisted External Rotation
Hold a resistance band on one end while anchoring the other end on one foot. Elevate the elbow to shoulder level, then rotate your hand upward until it touches the floor. Pause momentarily before returning to the starting position. Repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
This exercise should also be performed in the opposite direction with the resistance band anchored above the head in order to work the internal rotator subscapularis muscle.
Shoulder Level Resisted External Rotation
Begin either standing or seated on a stability ball. Hold one end of the resistance band in one hand with elbow out at 90 degrees arm abduction and with the forearm parallel to the floor while the opposite end of the band is anchored at same level in front of the body. While maintaining the same elbow position, rotate the arm upward and backward against the resistance. Pause momentarily and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Shoulder Level Internal Rotation
Begin seated on a stability ball. Hold one end of the resistance band in hand with elbow out at 90 degrees arm abduction and with fist up high at full shoulder external rotation while the opposite end of the band is anchored at same level behind the body. Bend the elbow to 90 degrees. Maintaining the same elbow position, rotate the arm, moving the fist forward against resistance. Hold for a couple of seconds and slowly return to starting position. Repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Blackburn Y on Stability Ball
Begin in a plank position on a stability ball. Arms should be extended to sides at shoulder level with hands at 10 and 2 o'clock position. Make hands into a soft fist with thumbs up. Activate core muscles. Lift hands and arms toward ceiling and squeeze shoulder blades together. Neck muscles should remain relaxed. Hold for 5 seconds. Return to start position and repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Dumbbell External Rotation on Stability Ball
Begin in the plank position on the stability ball while holding dumbbells with elbows at shoulder level and bent to 90 degrees. While maintaining the 90 degree angle at the elbow joint and a stable scapular position, rotate the arms upward until the hand approximately at the level of the ears. Slowly return to start position and repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions. This is a challenging exercise and can be regressed by using no weights in order to develop the perfect movement pattern.
All of the above displayed exercises are easy to execute and include minimal risks if performed as described. To achieve satisfying results it is important do them on a regular basis and for a minimum of 4 weeks.
For any questions regarding your own training then please contact us directly.