Keeping those Shoulders Strong

Exercises to promote healthy rotator cuffs and scapular stabilisers

This month I am focussing on shoulder and upper back conditioning, specifically on the rotator cuffs and scapular stabilisers.

The rotators are a group of muscles that – together with their corresponding tendons – stabilise the shoulder joint when it completes a range of motions.  These muscles are especially important to climbers, who use and abuse them regularly with dynamic pulling actions and overhead movements.

Injuries to the rotator cuff can limit shoulder mobility and lead to inhibited pulling strength, grip strength and a multitude of other restrictive issues.

So, you can see why it’s so important to keep the rotator muscles strong and in peak condition.  Here are four simple exercises that I like to use to strengthen my rotator muscle group and keep them in good working order:

External rotations with a resistance band

Stand with good posture (back straight, feet hip-width apart, knees unlocked, shoulders back and down, head up) and keep the elbows at a 90-degree angle and at your sides, grip the resistance band with palms facing up and pull hands away from each other until you reach the point of mild tension, then slowly return to your starting position. Perform 20-25 repetitions.

Starting position
At point of mild tension

Internal rotations with a resistance band

Anchor the resistance band on an object at waist height.  Standing with good posture (as above) and keeping the elbow at a 90-degree angle, grip the resistance band with the hand closest to the anchor and pull the hand and forearm across your body.  It is very important to keep the elbow fixed to the side of the body and move only the forearms and hand.  Return to starting position. Perform 20-25 repetitions.

Starting position
Pull across body

Shrugs

Stand with good posture, moderate weight dumbbells* in both hands, lift your shoulders towards your ears, and hold for one second. Release slowly back down, keeping the shoulders back as they travel down to the starting position. Perform 20-25 repetitions.  

Starting position
Pause at the end position

Shoulder Press

Sit on a chair or bench, with good posture, holding moderate weight dumbbells* in each hand.  Bring the dumbbells to the side of the shoulders, elbows bent and palms facing out.  Press the dumbbells directly overhead, palms maintaining a forward-facing position.  At the top, arms press in until the dumbbells touch.  Reverse the movement, bringing the hands back to the starting position.  Perform up to 20 repetitions.

Starting position
Top position

*Remember, this is about conditioning the muscles, not building muscle, so heavy weights are not needed.

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