One of the most often injured areas in lifters is the rotator cuff. This is primarily due to a high volume of pressing (bench press, incline press, overhead press, etc.) and a low volume of work for the antagonistic muscles of the upper back. The best fix for this is obviously to begin to balance the training of your upper body. For every set of pressing you should do a set of rowing to balance the muscles of the shoulder girdle.
This strategy not only prevents injuries, but also prevents the dreaded "caveman posture" (rounded upper back). Proper posture is not only an issue of appearance though, it also improves your performance since the joints are stabilized and in correct alignment.
Balancing pressing with rows is a great start, but if you have been training in an unbalanced manner for awhile then you may also need to do some direct work for the rotator cuffs. Please notice that this is to be done in addition to a balanced training program. There is nothing I hate more than seeing some guy do set after set of heavy bench presses and then do a few sets of a rotator cuff exercise with 5 pounds in an effort to prevent injury.
Always remember that proper program design is your first line of defense against injuries! If you donít know how to properly design a training program (hint: there is more to it than just balancing rows and presses) then find someone who does. Your muscle gains will be faster and your injuries will be fewer.
With that said, letís look at two simple rotator cuff exercises you can use:
1. Prone 90/90 Rotations
Start laying face down on a bench. Grab a light dumbbell or plate in each hand. Raise the dumbbells off the floor by bending your elbows to 90 degrees and having your upper arm at 90 degrees to your body. This is your starting position. From this position you are going to keep your elbows in the same position and rotate at the shoulder until the dumbbells are out to the side of your head. Then return to the starting position and repeat.
2. Side-lying 0/90 Rotations
Start lying on your left side with a dumbbell or plate in your right hand. Put your elbow on your hip with a 90 degree bend in your elbow. Your forearm should be lying across your stomach. This is the start position. From this position rotate from the shoulder while keeping the elbow at your hip. Rotate as far as your flexibility will allow and then return to the starting position.
These two direct rotator cuff exercises are a fantastic addition to an already sound muscle gaining program. There are many more rotator cuff exercises, but the basics will serve you well for while. Don't be surprised if you can't use more than 2 or 3 pounds on these movements to begin with. If you have been neglecting your rotator cuffs and upper back for awhile then they are bound to be weak. Give it some time and you will begin to see progress.
If you stick to a well-designed training program you will prevent injuries and gain muscle mass. Always keep in mind that a great training program comes before everything else. If your workout program is poorly designed then donít ever expect to see consistent muscle gains no matter how hard you work in the gym or what supplements you take.
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