The third part in my strength assessment series for Men's Health concerns perhaps the most important part when it comes to maintaining or improving shoulder health: The posterior shoulder.
For most of us that spend considerable time typing at a computer, driving, or sitting on the sofa working your posterior shoulder muscles, and in the case of the featured prone L raise, the rotator cuff muscles, is crucial for staving off injury. Most of you have at some point tweaked a shoulder while pressing and know what that does to progress - actually regression.
This year is a perfect time to think about long term health and improvement.
Strengthen your weakness
To make significant progress with upper body training, having healthy shoulders is essential. (After all, you can't offer her two tickets to the gun show if your bouncers aren't letting anyone in, if you see what we mean.) The common "Achilles heel" of shoulder exercises is rotator cuff weakness: do the following test, courtesy of personal trainer Chris Bathke, to determine if you need some extra work for your posterior shoulder.
Test your rotator cuff
Lie face down on an incline bench holding a pair of 5kg dumb-bells with arms extended toward the floor and thumbs facing in. Pinching the shoulder blades together, raise your elbows to shoulder height. Then, while maintaining a 90-degree bend at the elbow, raise your hands towards the ceiling until they are in line with your head. Pause for one second at the top, then return to the starting position.
Build it up
"If you can do 10 perfect reps using a full range of motion and without any stress in your neck or mid-back then you have good rotator cuff strength," says Bathke. Simply maintain with two to three sets of eight once a week. However, if you had difficulty then do three sets of eight with 2.5kg dumbbells twice a week, along with two or three sets of eight prone T raises (reverse flys). Retest every four weeks.
Raise the bar
Once you're up to speed (and strength), blast your shoulders further with scapular face pulls. "Using a double handle attachment on a cable station, set the handle at about head height, grip the handles and row it towards your face while bringing your hands wide," says Bathke. Use strict form with no momentum and make sure you relax your upper traps and pinch your shoulder blades together. "Start with two sets of 10 once a week and try to do an extra rep each week until you hit 15, then up the weight," advises Bathke.