The Path to Shoulder Stability

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

One of my favorite joints to work with is the shoulder, because it’s one of the most complex in the human body. The human shoulder and scapula complex is stabilized by over 20 muscles and is composed of 4 different articulations, not to mention how many tendons and ligaments. This layered complexity allows for all of the amazing movement our shoulder is capable of; overhead, behind us, in front, straight, bent, to the side. The shoulder allows us to push and pull, in multiple planes.

Is there a downside to this complexity? I don’t think so. Our shoulders are complex, and that means that our exercise program and mobility must adequately support the many composite facets that make up shoulder stability. Does it mean we have more responsibility to take care of this amazing joint? Absolutely.

We must do more work for our shoulders, because there is so much room for compensation, and incomplete mechanics. The inactivation of 1 muscle, due to injury, a fall, over-use, can create ripple effects in the chain, which can be compensated for by the rest of the system. But that will create shifts, more incomplete mechanics, and perpetuate the compensation. The way I see it, the shoulder’s complexity means we must rise to the occasion and meet it with complexity in our workouts, our mobility, and our recovery.

Incorporating mobility exercises throughout our routine is key to overall shoulder health, and choosing a healthy variety of exercises that strengthen the whole complex. One of the most common mistakes I see with shoulder instability is an anterior bias, with tight pecs and biceps that have been trained to do all the work. The posterior side has been deconditioned, creating instability as we move through the larger circle of our movement. Mobility and balance are key components to our shoulder health.

Before we dive any deeper, what exactly is mobility?

Mobility is the combination of strength and flexibility.

Mobility = strength + flexibility

Not only can we get you to that end range of motion, to that pistol squat or that lift overhead, but you’re strong there, and can control the motion. Plenty of people can whip a bar over their head, but how many can control where it stops? Plenty of people can get their arm behind them, but how many can hold it there, control its rotation without compensating at the neck or shoulder?

This is why having a balanced training program is key. If you spend a lot of time benching, then it’s important to train the back of your shoulder as well; for every bench, you should be paired with reverse flys or banded pull aparts to stabilize the back of the shoulder. For every overhead press, you should be performing overhead mobility exercises including overhead kettlebell rotations or arm bars. The thing with training and performance, is that you need to train your edges and your end range to be comfortable and powerful throughout the movement. The path to injury is to only train the movement you want to succeed at, missing all the auxiliary musculature and mobility we need to be there confidently and with stability.

Here are some of my favorite exercises to include to support shoulder stability:

Kettlebell Arms Bars

Kettlebell Overhead Press with internal/external rotation

Rolling Out Lats and Rotator Cuff

Banded Pull Aparts

Have you got questions? Do you not know what those exercises even are? Contact us, and we can take you through how to support your shoulder stability so you’re functional and pain free for a lifetime!

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