The structural design of the shoulder allows for a greater range of movement, though on the contrary requires more muscular stabilisation to support the structure during movement.
Without balanced muscular support the shoulder joint is more susceptible to malfunctioning biomechanics which may lead to acute or chronic injuries such as tendinitis, impingement, rotator cuff tears or subluxation (dislocation). Therefore, it is extremely important to develop balanced muscular strength and stability for the joint capsule and scapulae (shoulder blades). Further increasing our susceptibility to shoulder injuries are the nature of many of our livelihoods, hunched over a computer.
The exercises listed below are excellent for encouraging efficient movement of the shoulder and developing strength for carriage and support.
Protraction/Retraction (reaches), Elevation/Depression (shrugs) of shoulders
These are great for mobilising the shoulder blades and developing awareness of their movement and connection gliding across the back of the rib cage. Using a resistance band further assists in activating the surrounding muscles and developing proprioception. Similarly positioned in a 4-point kneeling position or lying supine on a foam roller assists in sensing this movement.
This exercise is wonderful for strengthening the rotator cuff muscles. These smaller muscles are crucial for support and stabilising the arm in the shoulder socket.
Rowing involves retraction of the shoulder blades, strengthening traps, rhomboids and serratus muscles, depending on the angle you draw your elbows back. This exercise is excellent for most, especially if you have rounded shoulders and/or a “slouched” posture.
Push ups are great for building strength and stability through the entire shoulder girdle. Focusing on good technique rather than overloading is key to developing good structural integrity and strength.
Pulldowns are great for encouraging smooth gliding of the shoulder blade through an upward and downward rotation motion whilst avoiding “winging” of the blade off the back of the rib cage. This exercise is extremely effective for isolating movement, developing awareness and building strength. Lat pulls further build strength and stability of the shoulder blades.
A key to all these exercises, as emphasised in all pilates exercises are smoothness and control though the entire motion. Developing strength with control ensures dynamic stability for effective movement and function.