Better Back, Stronger Shoulders
Three moves to help strengthen and prevent injury to the back and shoulders, responsible for the range of motion we need in sports.
That nagging injury you have? It’s highly probable your body wasn’t adequately prepared for the stress you imposed on it. That’s why there’s merit to first, easing into a training program slowly; and second, incorporating resistance training into your workouts.
It’s an antiquated belief that resistance training will slow you down by adding bulk and decreasing flexibility. As you increase training load more than that of a weekend warrior, you should consider integrating resistance training. Such sessions take only 30 to 60 minutes, done twice or thrice a week, with a day’s rest in-between. Movement-specific functional training done with minimal rest periods during short duration sessions is very effective in improving performance and preventing injury.
WHY THE BACK AND SHOULDERS MATTER
The shoulder complex is vital since it is responsible for a huge range of motion, allowing us to perform throwing and swinging movements. These rely primarily on muscle and connective tissue for stability and support, especially for athletes who participate in sports such as swimming, pitching in baseball, spiking in volleyball, and other sports that involve overhead movement.
However, repetitive movement and wrong form can lead to serious wear and tear of the muscles and tendons in the area. Strengthen the back and shoulders in a way that won’t cause damage, and will enhance your performance.
Here are a couple of exercises.
⇐ Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 10 reps per side.
⇐ The basic position: A tall half-kneeling position helps activate your gluteus (butt) muscles. This muscle group stabilizes your core and hips, and transfers forces evenly between your upper and lower body, and in movements that involve anti-rotation (running) and rotation (swimming). Keep your core tight by kneeling tall, squeezing the butt muscles of the knee that’s on the ground, and drawing your stomach in during the entire set.
01 Kettlebell Half-Kneel Bottoms-Up Press
Most people who do overhead presses do it wrong. They shrug their shoulders and don’t engage their rotator cuff (shoulder blade) muscles, which leads to instability. This exercise corrects this. By holding the kettlebell in the bottoms-up position, the muscles of the shoulder will have to stabilize the joint to fight the kettlebells side-to-side movements, which automatically engage the rotator cuff muscles.
This exercise develops the back of the shoulder group. During this movement, the shoulders do majority of the work, rather than the back. It can be done either by using the cable machine or with the travel-friendly resistance band. Add it to your warm-up routine as an activation exercise, then later as part of the main workout proper to promote strength. Remember to keep your shoulders down and back when pulling because there is a tendency to shrug which leads to bad posture.
03 Cable Half-kneel Rotational Chop
Diagonal patterns of extension and rotation are a vital part of movement. Physical therapists use these to provide a more “real world” aspect to rehabilitation, as they found out that movements are multi-planar. A higher form of rehab involves diagonal patterns of flexion and extension combined with rotation. The most frequent of these diagonal patterns were simply termed “chopping patterns” and “lifting patterns.”
HOW IT’S DONE
1. Clip the rope attachment to the highest setting on the cable machine.
2. With the cable machine to your right, assume a tall half-kneel stance with your right foot in front of you and your left knee touching the floor. (You’ll need to reverse this when you perform the exercise on the other side).
3. Grab both ends of the rope with an overhand grip (that you can see your knuckles). Your shoulders should face the rope attachment and your torso faces forward.
4. Always keep your core muscles tight and squeeze the glutes on the same side as that of your knee which touches the floor.
5. Use the muscles of your torso to pull the rope down, across your body, and past your opposite hip. Keep your arms straight throughout.
6. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat the movement.