Our hips and shoulders get a lot of use in CrossFit, like those of many other people so passionately involved in functional fitness. But due to the greater complexity of the shoulder, they often times get put into overdrive and overuse and as a result, it is not entirely uncommon to hear complaints of shoulder pain or discomfort in the CrossFit community…maybe you have even experienced these frustrations yourself. But it doesn’t have to be this way! These 3 simple tips can help you not only be shoulder pain and injury free, but increase your performance in and out of the box:
If it hurts, STOP. Although this seems so obviously logical, it can also be difficult as an athlete to understand the importance of listening to our bodies when we have come to love our exercise program so much. Pain is a natural signal in which our body’s are trying to tell us that something is wrong…listen to those warnings! The reality is that not all body’s and bodily structures are made equally, and specific to the shoulder, an example of this would be the different types of acromions which cause some people to be more prone to shoulder impingement. If you begin to experience pain in your shoulder, the first step you should be taking is not to push through that pain, but to assess how to manage the issues that you are having and this might include modifying, or “scaling.” With the help of your coach, you can identify alternative movements that will allow you to maintain and even still progress your fitness, without causing harm.
Stabilize.The shoulder is a highly complex combination of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints, most of which its stability comes from the rotator cuff consisting of four powerful muscles - supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor. Lightweight or banded, focused movements done correctly will help in building strength following a minor injury or more importantly, pre-habilitate your shoulders to avoid injury altogether. Rotator cuff injuries are more common than most people believe and even an asymptomatic person likely carries enough issues to warrant the need for stabilizing exercises before injury occurs.The serratus anterior, often overlooked, is also of great importance in shoulder stability and health, especially considering that it is the first muscle to “turn off” when it comes to shoulder dysfunction. Along with the rotator cuff, the serratus anterior requires training and activation for both a re-hab or pre-hab plan for the shoulder.
Quit your job. Just kidding. This brings up the point, however, that what you do outside of the gym is just as, if not more, important than what you do inside of it. Although you may be doing everything perfectly in the hour you spend at the box, the other hours might get spent perfectly poorly and present your greatest risk to shoulder injury. Poor posture, seen often at the desk, is a major cause of a multitude of musculoskeletal problems that pre-condition us for a state of injury. The protracted shoulders often seen in such a position set us up for nearly inevitable shoulder issues as the ideal length-tension relationship of the rotator cuff is disrupted when the scapula are winged due to the rounding of the shoulders. Don’t let your job or lifestyle ruin everything you work for in the gym and make sure you stay moving throughout the day and pay good attention to your posture.
About the Author Sarah Loogman is a trainer and athlete of Northstate CrossFit in Redding, Ca. With a strong athletic background in collegiate sports, Sarah transitioned to CrossFit in 2013 and has since been familiar to the podium in fitness events such as Femme Fit and Northstate’s Fittest, among others. Sarah competed in the California ‘Super’ Regional in San Diego in 2015 with the Northstate team and is hopeful to qualify among California’s top women in 2016. You can find Sarah on Instagram at @sarahloogman.
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