The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, which makes it a very unstable joint that needs proper care in order to keep it healthy and as stable as possible. Many people, more so teenagers, think they are indestructible and will never need to worry about warming up their joints and getting proper blood flow to them along with their muscles.
I know personally when I started working out, warming up was a joke and never once crossed my mind. The only extent of warming up I ever did, was using light weights before working up to my working sets on bench press , or shoulder press. The problem with that is my shoulders were not ready for the heavy workload they were about to endure.
Now, people may think “oh I’ll just do more shoulder exercises; side delt raises, rear delt flyes to make my shoulder more stable and stronger. That does seem like a brilliant strategy and can work, however, the underlying problem is that the main muscles used to keep the shoulder strong, are the rotator cuff muscles. Those four small muscles are crucial to the stabilization of the shoulder joint and when they are weak, your shoulder is weak.
No matter how huge your side delts or rear delts are, if your rotators are weak, they will tear and you will feel incredibly unsafe when using your shoulder to lift.
What are the rotator cuff muscles?
The rotator cuff is made up of four small muscles: supraspinatus, subscapularis, teres minor, and the infraspinatus. Each muscle has its own job, but together they work together to maintain stabilization and strength in the entire shoulder joint. These muscles may seem small, and therefore irrelevant, but they require the most attention when it comes to proper training. Meaning that, proper warming up and also strengthening of the muscles is highly recommended to prevent serious injuries.
Personally, I had always heard that warming up is crucial, but I had never experienced pain so I paid it no attention. About two months ago, I was benching and squatting three times a week using workloads no less than 85% of my maxes. Now while my knees were holding up well, my shoulders were on fire after every workout. On top of that, my job is 8+ hours of constant shoulder use. Finally, after 2 months, my shoulder gave out and I tore my rotator cuff, so much so that I needed time off of work, unable to workout for months, and had to do therapy for 8 weeks straight.
It was there I learned how important those muscles were and how weak I had become due to the rotator being torn. Learn from my experiences, and take 10 to 15 minutes to just properly avoid a serious injury like this. Taking ten minutes to warm up may seem tedious and pointless but it will save you months of being unable to workout and losing your mind.
How to properly warm up the shoulder joint
To properly warm up the shoulder, you need to hit all four of the muscles as best as you can, just to make sure there is adequate blood flow to them. Now, even though these are muscles, they take no more than 5 pound dumbbells to properly work and strengthen them. I would recommend two and half pound dumbbells for three sets – exercise for 15 to 20 reps for the three to four exercises.
Sample warmup routine:
- Front raises – 3 sets of 15-20 reps
- Side raises – 3 sets of 15 reps
- Y raises – 3 sets of 15 – the Y raise is essentially like a side raise, however instead of raising your arms out straight to the side, you raise your arms to the side and slightly out in front of you, forming a “Y” with your body)
- Band circuit – 3 sets of 10 each – this is a 4 mini exercise superset with a very light resistance band. First exercise is front raise, then internal rotation , external rotation, and finally a straight arm pullback (only going as far as your shoulder can go while standing straight up)
This is a complete warm up of the rotator cuff muscles and will strengthen them, and most importantly prevent injury. This sample routine has helped me go from a torn rotator cuff, unable to bench press 135 without pain, to a stronger shoulder, able to bench 260lbs for sets of four paused reps without pain, in less than 3 months.
Be sure to warm up your shoulders, learn from my past mistakes, and thank me later.