Sometimes shoulder pain can literally paralyze progress. You might also ask yourself, "How long have I been bench pressing the same workout weights, unable to add a few more pounds or a few more reps?"
Listen To Your Body
Your body is wise and speaks often, so listen. Progress comes down to basic body mechanics, your own operating machine. Use the metaphor of body as muscle-car.
Close your eyes and put yourself behind the wheel of one of your favorite road monsters, one with a finely tuned V8, Hurst shifter, ram-air induction, glass packs, and Doug Thorley headers, an engine that belches glorious throaty power. (PM favorites are the 1969 Carousel Red Judge and the 440 magnum Dodge Charger.)
To get your training back between the white lines, take the time to get a front-end alignment for your body. You have to work on ALL aspects of your shoulder joints. Like any other body part, complete shoulder development involves strength, stability, balance, and flexibility. Most of the articles and routines published for shoulder development focus on building size and, with that, strength.
Most versions of DB laterals, rear laterals, incline, bench and upright presses and front raises -when performed properly-build the impressive visual muscles. Of course, they are the muscles that get the most attention and training time in the gym.
Of course, bodybuilders know that if they want strong healthy shoulders, they need to build them using these proven exercises. Unfortunately, most of this "guts" shoulder training, while visually reinforcing, can actually make the shoulder joint structurally weaker. Say what?
That's right. Heavy lateral raises, bent laterals, front raises, and upright rows train your visible muscles. But, for maximum size, total mechanical strength and great stability in moving up the real big bench presses, the muscles you want to train are intertwined with all the visual muscles and with all the intricate operating functions related to the joint underneath all the beef you've been piling on.
Think of it as needing strong and healthy "tie-rods" to the shoulders. While they might not be visible, they are absolutely crucial to big bench presses and big injury-free muscles.
Doing The Right Shoulder Thing - Balance And Symmetry
For healthy shoulders, consciously train for symmetry and stability. Not just the Zane isomerism, the-left-to-right mirror image symmetry that accentuated the grace of Frank's delicate build, but front-to-back symmetry and deep stability. This will help prevent injuries, move up your bench strength and size, and eliminate chronic training pain.
The strength- and size-building exercises mentioned herein are usually performed in front of a mirror with the visual emphasis on the front part of the shoulders. Every exercise, which strengthens the front of the shoulder, must be balanced by training to strengthen the corresponding rear muscles. If balance and stability are not maintained, it's like putting different size tires on each side of your muscle car's drive train.
A healthy balance of support maintains the tremendous flexibility of the shoulder tendons and muscles. When these get out of balance, stretched, scarred or weak, the shoulder may start to click, pop, grind and even "miss". This uneven development at the shoulder joint will put incredible strain on the small connective tissue around the joint and capsules and can eventually bring all shoulder and upper body training to a halt.
Fortunately there is a direct exercise routine first popularized by Frank Jobe, M.D. and then expanded upon by Joseph Horrigan, DC, in his book The 7-Minute Rotator Cuff Solution, and this is very likely to restore the healthy balance to your shoulders. It primarily involves isolated external rotation of the shoulder joint to strengthen those muscles usually neglected, the stabilizers such as supra and infraspinatus and teres minor.
Naturally, most deltoid and pectoral exercise preferentially develops the big, strong internal rotation muscles, including the subscapularis, pectoralis, latissimus and teres major. Unfortunately there are only 2 major external rotators of the shoulder joint, the teres minor and infraspinatus and they are easily overwhelmed!
The key to a "fix" is joint isolation. This can be accomplished by externally supporting the humerus so that the large muscles are relaxed while the small muscles stabilizing the joint receive the brunt of exercise.
The ShoulderHorn is an excellent muscle machine for providing a simple way to perform isolated external rotations in exactly the right form every time. If you just can't afford a ShoulderHorn you can try this - Sit at a high table table with good posture.
Rest your elbow on one or more books (to support it at about a 10-degree angle down from horizontal). Make sure your humerus is in the same plane as your scapula - about 12 degrees forward of body plane. With your arm in that position, supported completely by say, a phone book, take a light weight (1 - 5 pounds) in the involved hand and slowly raise it just shy of vertical and lower it to just below horizontal.
(Don't force the hand down since that can actually start to dislocate the shoulder joint.)
Three sets of 20 - 30 repetitions of this exercise twice a week will usually begin to restore the balance, quiet the shoulder down, and diminish or prevent pain; but the ShoulderHorn would work a LOT better.
Without pain and with better mechanics and intrinsic stability, you will also be able to handle heavier weights because of better function. This will help you add size and strength without any limiting imbalance.
Now that our muscle car is strong, stable, and balanced, there is only one thing left - lubrication. Getting a "lube and oil" for your car keeps everything moving freely. Stretching and flexibility do the same for your body and keep you from becoming a "muscle bound" cliché. Franco Columbu used to amaze the muscle beach crowds by dropping down into a full split - proving that advanced bodybuilders can be flexible. While you don't need to do the splits; you must stretch your shoulders to ensure the flexibility that allows full range of motion and keeps your shoulders loose.
Flexibility is also helped by deep tissue and pressure point massage using the unique Deep Relief SportsCare cream to relieve chronic knots and pain. The Theracane allows you to hit those hard-to-reach spots with precise pressure. For an excellent book to help you understand that Atlas of trigger points, see When Movement Hurts by Barbara Headley, MS, PT. 800.770.8193.
If you invest the time to tune up your muscle machine, using these fundamental exercises and devices, especially the unequalled ShoulderHorn, you will have the confidence to go all out in your training.
Do all this and we GUARANTEE (AKA, money-back) you will be blown away by the results.