For the last 30 years or so, the physical medicine/rehabilitation world has been pre-occupied with the 'band exercises' for the following injuries:
- frozen shoulder
- shoulder impingement
- rotator cuff tears
- shoulder tendonitis
You've all seen them. They look something like this:
That creates a situation where we are isolating individual structures of the rotator cuff one at a time. The problem is when you need to move your arm and shoulder in the real world we're never ever going to actually isolate one individual muscle at a time. Rather, you're going to fire a bunch of different muscles all at the same time. It's time for our exercises to have an updated to approach to rehabilitation.
The New Way to Rehab Your Shoulder Injury
"IN THE REAL WORLD, WE'RE NEVER GOING TO BE ISOLATING ONE ROTATOR CUFF MUSCLE AT A TIME, SO WHY WOULD WE TRAIN (OR REHAB) IT THAT WAY?"
When you hold onto a heavyweight (or you hang from a pull-up bar) the forces of the weight are trying to pull your shoulder out of the socket. As a result, all of the 4 rotator cuff muscles and surrounding musculature reflexively contract together to help stabilize and control your shoulder. This concept is called 'irradiation'. You're teaching all your muscles to work as a team, as opposed to individually. Most problems in the shoulder arise from imbalances in the area, so we might as well keep all of our muscles working together at the same time.
Now, this isn't a complete rehabilitation program in itself, but what it does do is demonstrate to you how you can start to incorporate healthy exercises for your shoulder in your day-to-day program now. You could perform the following exercises:
Pull Up Bar Hangs
This is a great way to either warm up your shoulders before a workout or really burn them at the end of one. Hang from a pull-up bar and sway from side to side, then front to back. Try to hold it for one minute. Once that gets easy, try hanging with one arm.
Quick tip: When hanging from the bar, make sure your arms are a fair distance away from your ears. That active engagement increases activation of the shoulder blade stabilizers which will provide a better foundation for proper shoulder movement.
- Suitcase Carries
- Farmer's Carries
So my recommendation is that you incorporate lifting heavy things, or hanging from a bar to help you warm up your shoulder or help you recover from minor injuries to your shoulder. If you have major pain or discomfort, be sure to get professional treatment. Good luck!
References:Reed D, Cathers I, Halaki M, Ginn KA. (2015). Does load influence shoulder muscle recruitment patterns during scapular plane abduction? Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.