It would be strange to train the right side of the body and not the left and not many people would train the hamstring muscles in the rear thigh and not think to train the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh. However gyms and personal training facilities throughout the country are full of people who have ignored an entire muscle group in their training programmes.
Creating shoulders that are both strong and functional involves finding a balance between training the prime power-producing superficial muscles (pectorals, latissimus dorsi and deltoids) and training the deeper shoulder joint stabilisers – the rotator cuff. A strong rotator cuff provides vital stability for the shoulder and allows the more powerful force producing muscles to functional optimally. Many people either ignore the presence of this muscles group (often because it is not very visible), or simply never challenge the stability of the region through appropriate functional training techniques.
The rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder joint have several important functions:
- To hold the ball of the joint (the head of the humerus) securely in the socket of the joint (the glenoid fossa).
- To centralise the humeral head in the socket and provide a stable base for maximum power production.
- To rotate the humerus (in order to get the best fit into the glenoid fossa).
- To depress the humeral head – balancing the upward pull of deltoid during elevation of the arm.
The three external rotators of the shoulder (supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor) are responsible for rolling the arm out away from the midline of the body. Common examples of external rotation are; winding the arm out in preparation to throw a ball or to begin a serve in tennis. Training which includes resisted shoulder rolling out movements as part of a functional full body exercise or isolated shoulder region exercise will stimulate the external rotators to function with improved strength and endurance.
Similarly the internal rotator of the shoulder (subscapularis) is responsible for rolling the arm in towards the midline of the body (away from an out stretched position). Forceful internal rotation is occurring as you actually throw a ball or hit the ball in the tennis serve. Training which includes resisted shoulder rolling in movements as part of a functional full body exercise or isolated shoulder region exercise will stimulate the internal rotators to function with improved strength and endurance.
For strong, stable and functional shoulders that do not slip, pinch, crunch or just plain hurt, include rotator cuff training every time you train shoulders. Your shoulders will thank you.