Shoulder injuries are one of the most common problems associated with bodybuilding. This is because the rotator cuffs in the shoulders form a pivot between the arms and the torso and are subjected to a lot of stress if the exercises are performed with poor technique. The rotator cuffs are also quite fragile and can become dislocated quite easily and cause surrounding muscle tears.
The most effective way of dealing with shoulder injuries is prevention. This involves building strength in your shoulders and maintaining good form during upper body workouts. For instance, the bench press exerts a lot of stress on the shoulders, and it is therefore important to complement the bench press with military press and shoulder raises. If you work on the strength in your shoulders you will find that you will be able to bench a lot more weight. This is due to the fact that the body places an injury-preventing limit on how much you can bench if your shoulders do not have enough strength. Once your shoulders gain strength, you will be able to translate more of the weight to your chest muscles during the bench press, without being limited by weak shoulders.
As with all other exercises, it is very important to warm up the shoulders prior to any chest or back workout. Start your first set with a low weight in order to prepare the muscle group for the oncoming load.
Lat pulldowns and bench press workouts are particularly prone to shoulder injuries:
One of the most common mistakes people make with the lat pulldown is to bring the bar down behind their neck. This places an immense strain on the rotator cuffs (as well as the neck) and will sooner or later cause injury. The bar should always be brought down in front of the head and make contact with the chest halfway between the collarbone and the nipples. In addition, you should lean backwards while the bar is being pulled down and keep your eyes fixed upward at 45 degrees.
Dumbbell Bench Press/Fly
These exercises can cause shoulder injuries if the dumbbells are brought down further than the horizontal with the bench. This is because this extra angle puts a downward strain on the shoulders and can even result in dislocation. The extra range will also not do any good because the chest muscles are no longer engaged at that inclination. Furthermore, at the end of the dumbbell press or fly you should not stretch your arms to bring the weights to the floor as this can cause shoulder tears. Instead you should sit up with the weights and bring them to the floor with a straight back and bent knees.
If you are already injured then it is of utmost importance not to place any strain on the shoulders. Work only on your core and legs until you are fully recovered. You should also consider a shoulder-strengthening program before heading back into your regular routine, in order to equalize the strength in your upper body and get a more effective workout.