The shoulder is a very complex joint. Injuries to the shoulder as well as many athletic activities can stress the joint to the maximum and cause permanent changes in its stability. Stability of the shoulder joint is dependent on three areas: the bone structure, the ligament strength, and the muscular strength.
The bone structure of the shoulder has been described as a softball sitting on a golf tee. Small defects in the concave surface of the tee (the glenoid fossa) can cause the convex surface of the ball (the humerus) to slip and slide more than it should (shoulder instability). If it falls off completely then the joint is dislocated.
The ligaments that surround the shoulder joint need to be flexible enough to allow for a large range of movement, but not so flexible that they do not hold the joint together. When the joint is too flexible (either due to injury or too much stretching) then the joint will slip and slide more that it should. This could cause problems with instability and/or dislocation of the joint. On the other hand, ligaments that are too tight will limit range of movement and restrict activities.
If there is damage to either the skeletal structure or the ligaments that surround the shoulder, there is little an individual can do to correct the problem. They must see an orthopedic doctor and see what surgical options are available. The muscular strength of the shoulder is the biggest area an athlete has control over. Many of the muscles that are worked in the weight room (Biceps, Triceps, Deltoid, Pectoralis), do little to hold the shoulder joint together. It is the smaller internal muscles that you don’t see which provide the strength and stability of the joint.
There are more than 10 muscles that move the shoulder joint. Most of the muscles are small and not visible when they contract, but provide most of the stability to keep the joint together during activity. When these small muscles are isolated, they cannot handle a lot of weight; usually less that 5 lbs. Four of these muscles are the Rotator Cuff.
The following exercises stimulate these small muscles and should be done as part of your regular warm up for weight training or in-between sets of exercises. Start with a light weight (1 to 2 lbs.) and 30 repetitions for each exercise. As that becomes easier add 10 repetitions to each exercise each week. When you can do 50 repetitions of an exercise comfortably, then increase the weight by 1 lb and go back to 30 repetitions. Continue trying to progress the repetitions or resistance each week for each exercise. Not all exercises will progress at the same rate. Pay attention to using perfect technique working through the full range of motion with each exercise. The quality of the exercise is more important as the quantity or the resistance
Lay on your stomach on a table. Raise your arm behind you till your hand is just above your thigh. Keep your elbow straight. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
Standing or lying with your front facing the floor. Lift the dumbell to the chest pulling your elbow past your ribs.
Lying on your back, push your hand straight up toward the ceiling. You should finish with your hand directly over your shoulder.
INTERNAL ROTATION -
Lie on your back. With your arm held at the side and the elbow bent to 90° raise your hand until the weight is pointed toward the ceiling. Slowly lower it back to the starting position.
EXTERNAL ROTATION -
Lie on your side with your elbow held close against your ribs. Slowly raise the weight until it is pointed at the ceiling. Lower the weight under control and repeat.
PRONE FLY: THUMB UP -
Lie on your stomach with your arms hanging off the side or end of a table. Raise your arms straight out to the side to shoulder height and pinch your shoulder blades together. Keep your elbows straight and your thumbs up.
PRONE FLY: THUMB DOWN -
Lie on your stomach with your arms hanging off the side or end of a table. Raise your arms straight out to the side to shoulder height & pinch your shoulder blades together. Keep your elbows straight and your thumbs down.
Start with your elbows straight and the thumb turned toward the floor. Slowly raise your arm in a plane about 30° forward from your side. Do not lift your arms higher than shoulder level; slowly lower it to the starting position and repeat.
SERRATUS PUNCH -
Lie on your back with your arms straight above you. Using your shoulder muscles try to punch towards the ceiling keeping the elbows straight.