The shoulder joint is the most unstable in the human body. Because explosive and repetitive movement of the joint is common in most sports it is also one of the most common sites of injury. Chances are if you're good at a sport, you've hurt your shoulder before. However with a couple of smart strategies, we can substantially reduce the chances of that injury reoccurring.
To protect the joint itself from impact and support it in its end range of motion, building muscle in the area is a huge key. Look here for our video on armour building for athletes. Movements such as overhead pressing, lateral raises, shrugs and face pulls need to be applied to build muscle around the shoulder joint. Muscles such as the trapezius, deltoids, rhomboids, pectorals and lats need significant work in the 10-20 rep range. This is especially important for females, who need to put in much more time and reps to build the same amount of muscle in the upper body. For overuse injuries, it's often the muscles of the rotator cuff that need more specific drills to stay strong and healthy.
When you flex a muscle in one position (isometric) it gains strength in that range. Because of how mobile the shoulder joint is multiple angles must be addressed. Overhead movements such as snatches and jerks can develop strong range in that position for the shoulders while band pull aparts can build end range strength in shoulder height and lower positions.
While this final piece isn't shoulder specific it makes a big difference: Shoulder injuries often stem from an athletes inability to absorb force (taking a hit) or recover from creating an extreme force (throwing). Becoming proficient in explosive full body movements such as cleans/snatches or squats against bands/chains will give you the ability to rapidly create and brace for powerful movements, which will shield your shoulders (and the rest of your body) from outside impacts.
If you are coming back from a shoulder injury or play a shoulder intensive sport, work these strategies into your program and make those shoulders bulletproof.
Jordan Guilford holds a degree in Exercise Science & Health Promotion and is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He spent 4 years as a Fitness Instructor for the Canadian Armed Forces and is the Fitness Director for the Canadian Ice Academy.