Shoulder exercises tend to fall into two main categories: exercises designed to build muscles in the shoulder and exercises designed to promote shoulder health. Broad, muscular shoulders are generally considered to be an aesthetically attractive physical feature on a man. Shoulders are also one of the most anatomically complicated joints in the body. Because of the degree of mobility in the joint, there can be a degree of instability, so whether you want to look good or feel good, your shoulders deserve attention.
The most common problems associated with the shoulder stem from the rotator cuff, the group of muscles that stabilize the joint and move the shoulder. Two of the most common problems are the prevalence of exercises focusing on the so called “mirror muscles” such as the pectoral muscles that are most aesthetically impressive, such as the bench press, and the bad posture that is common with the typically hunched posture of office workers. Both encourage tightness across the front of the body and slouching, as the muscles in the posterior chain in your back are out of balance with your front.
The scapula forms half of the shoulder socket that holds the arm in place and is almost completely controlled by a series of small muscles. It needs to be mobile enough to allow room for the shoulder but also needs to be stable enough to hold it in place. The shoulder is a complicated joint that needs to be able to be able to rotate inward and outward, and lift forward, backward, upward, downward, all while hopefully staying in the socket.
Performing the Face Pull
Physical therapist Bill Hartmann and strength coach Mike Robertson regard the face pull as an excellent, if rarely used exercise for the shoulder and for the scapula. As well as building muscle, it also helps to maintain shoulder health. Unlike most shoulder exercises found in the gym, it focuses on the muscles that control the scapula, or the shoulder blade. Using a the high cable on a pulley station, hold the cable with your arms out in front of you with the palms of your hands facing each other, then pull the cable back toward your face, allowing your arms to rotate up and your elbows to flare out.
The push-up is another exercise that recruits the muscles of the rotator cuff. You can progress from the push-up on the knees, through to the regular push-up, push-up with the feet elevated and then the one-handed push-up. The upright row is similar. It can be performed with the legs elevated, increasing the distance through which you must pull your body weight. Exercises used to build muscles include the shoulder press or the wide grip chin-up with palms facing away from you, which emphasizes work on the muscles in the back, helping to increase balance between different muscle groups.
Shoulder problems can be exacerbated by the inability to freely rotate since your arms are locked to the floor, the barbell or the chin up bar. By performing push-ups, pull-ups or upright rows on a set of Olympic rings, or by using dumbbells rather than a barbell for shoulder presses and other lifts, you can solve this problem. Exercises to improve your posture can also help your shoulders, such as pilates. Stretching the muscles in the chest is also important.