By Crystal Manjarres
Q. I am worried about tearing my rotator cuff… what can I do to protect it?
A. First off, congratulations on being aware of the importance of strong shoulder muscles and being proactive on prevention of injury. Most people overlook/neglect shoulder training to focus on muscles that bother them (like saggy underarms), or muscles that they want to highlight (like lean legs) instead of working on the body as a whole. Shoulder training, and more specifically rotator cuff training, is crucial to prevent muscle strain and/or tear; the truth is most people injure their rotator cuff muscles while performing everyday tasks, such as: moving a heavy object, reaching overhead to put something away, or exercising incorrectly.
In order to prevent shoulder strain or injury, you must train the muscles adequately and as evenly as possible: for example, train all three heads of the deltoid (anterior, medial, and posterior), as well as the smaller stabilizing muscles of the rotator cuff (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis), rather than only hitting the anterior and lateral delts (as most people often do).
After you’ve received your physician’s approval (and preferably have a trainer watch/spot you), you can begin your program with a few simple exercises like the ones suggested below. First begin with a warm up (like gentle arm circles first one way and then the other), followed by shoulder shrugs and gentle shoulder stretching. After the muscles are warm and limber, start slowly by working the smaller stabilizing muscles first; this will properly prepare the muscles for the workload to come and prevents injury while strengthening all of the muscles simultaneously.
The following exercises can be done using an exercise band or dumbbell: standing external rotations, internal rotations, lateral raises (to work the medial deltoid), frontal raises (to work the anterior deltoid), and finish with rear delt flyes (which work the posterior/back deltoids). If you’re new to shoulder training, start with one day per week to give the muscles time to adjust. You may later add two days per week after allowing two-to-three days of rest between workouts to allow for efficient recovery.
When in doubt, seek out an experienced personal trainer who can closely monitor your form, and educate you on the best exercises for your body.
Crystal Manjarres is the owner of One-On-One Fitness, a private personal training and Pilates studio on Marco Island. She is a certified personal trainer and Stott Pilates certified instructor. Her focus is “Empowering men and women of all shapes and sizes”. To send in a question, email Crystal@101Fit.com. She can also be reached at www.101FIT.com and 239- 333-5771.