Understanding the set up and positioning of your shoulders is really important for maintaining healthy shoulders.
You can do a self assessment where you can look at your own positioning. This is just a guide but gives you a bit of an understanding of how your shoulders and the posture of the shoulders should be.
First off, just stand facing a mirror with your hands by your side. Look at your hands, you should be able to see the first two knuckles.
If you can see the whole of the back of your hand then your shoulders are internally rotating due to a number of reasons but for most people it will from sitting at a desk for hours on end or driving.
The next thing you can look at is how your shoulders sit when you look at yourself side on. The simplest way is to take a photo of yourself side on.
You are looking to see if your ear and the point of your shoulder are in alignment. Is your head forward of your shoulders? Or are your shoulders forward of your ears/ head?
We can also look to see how we are when we take our arms over head.
When you take your arms straight over head you are aiming to have your bicep as close to your ears as possible.
Look at yourself front on and side on. See if there is a difference from your left and right. Also see if you can even get your arms in alignment with the back of your head.
The point of these movements is about awareness. You are not trying to diagnose anything.
If you have shoulder issues then you should be seeing a Physio to help you get on top of the injury.
2. Movement Pattern
With every exercise you want to take it through its full range. Shoulders are no exception.
A shoulder press can be an especially tricky exercise as there are many different ways it can potentially be done. As you get fatigued or if you have not been shown how to perform the exercise correctly we can create poor movement patterns.
You might not fully extend at the top or flare your ribs when you press, arch your back or try to press out in front. They are all easy habits to fall into if you are not careful and can lead to injury down the track.
Firstly if you are new to exercise then you want to start very light and focus purely on the movement pattern. As your training age increases then you can progress to heavier weight with lower reps.
Start with the bar, dowel, dumbbell whatever you like on the shoulder. Then when you press you want to push to the ceiling and end up with the weight over head, elbows fully extended and the weight or bar in line with the back of your head.
Make sure to keep ribs locked down so you take all the range through shoulders not through the thoracic or lower back.
Also make sure the shoulders are set back and down.
Spend plenty of time with high reps (12+) and light weight to really lay the foundation and build the mechanics and movement pattern through the full range.
3. Create Torque
When performing the shoulder press you want to make sure you set the shoulders and create torque.
Creating torque does a few things:
It prepares the joint and the body to perform the movement
It also provides a solid base for you to press off.
What many people do when they press is that they let their elbow flare out to the side. This is especially common when someone is very weak or is very new to the movement.
The problem with this movement apart from it being wrong is that the traps tend to take over forcing the shoulder blades up and over the shoulder. As opposed to creating torque and engaging the lats and rotator cuff, keeping the shoulders back and down providing a base to press off and marking sure our deltoids, pec and tricep are doing most of the work.
A great little tip is to think elbows forward of the bar when setting up to press the bar and think of bending the bar as you press it or trying to turn your hands into the ground (externally rotate the shoulders) if you are doing a push up.
4. Lots of little things create shoulder issues
The last thing I want you to consider is something I talk about a fair bit but in different contexts.
That’s is that lots of small things make a massive difference.
This is very true when it comes to shoulders. Either holding a poor posture or position for an extended time or performing poor repetitions over an extended period of time is going to create shortened weak muscles, poor movement patterns and injuries down the track.
Think about postures you hold for extended periods of time, this might be sitting behind a desk or driving long distances. Also think about things that you do for many repetitions, that might be a sport like swimming or surfing where there is a lot of internal rotation of the shoulders for many years.
Over time these can create issues especially if you are not aware that you are not performing them correctly or that you are falling into a poor posture.
Creating awareness is the first step then you can make a decision as to whether you want to make a change or not!