Posts Tagged ‘United States’

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am all about training the basic movement patterns that we use all day long:  Squatting, Pushing, and Pulling.  You want a fairly equal amount of each movement, and if your routine lacks any of these movements, you’re going to start seeing some major imbalances in your muscular system.

As you begin to make progress in your program, and start using heavier and heavier weights, it is extremely important to devote a little bit of time each workout to strengthening your smaller, stabilizing muscles around your joints.  In regards to the upper body, this is especially true for throwing athletes, as well as anyone in a racquet sport.  Maintaining strong stabilizing muscles around the elbow and shoulder is crucial to getting the most out of your training program as well as to stay healthy in your sport.  But strong stabilizing muscles aren’t just important for athletes.  Anyone who regularly does strength training should hit their stabilizing muscles. Today, I’d like to talk about the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder, specially the rotator cuff muscles.

Note: The exercises below are meant to be “pre-habilitation” exercises, to be done during the course of a normal resistance training program.  These exercises are to be done ONLY when your shoulder is presumably healthy.  If you already feel like you may have a shoulder injury, these exercises COULD exacerbate the problem so it is always best to check with your physician or physical therapist before trying these exercises, or any exercises you find on the internet for that matter.  

What is this mysterious “rotator cuff,” and where is it, and what does it do?

The term “rotator cuff” gets tossed around a lot in the world of sports.  Any time a baseball pitcher or football quarterback go down with a shoulder injury, everyone’s first worry is that it’s the rotator cuff.  The rotator cuff is actually a group of 4 muscles that surround the shoulder joint.  The rotator cuff muscles are responsible for assisting the abduction (moving away from the body) and rotation of the arm, and they are also responsible for providing stability to the shoulder joint, holding the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) into the shoulder socket.

The 4 muscles that make up the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.  The infraspinatus and teres minor both externally rotate the arm, while the subscapularis internally rotates the arm and the supraspinatus abducts the arm.

How can I strengthen my rotator cuff muscles?

Since the goal of rotator cuff training is to produce a functional, healthy, structurally sound shoulder, it is important to develop all 4 muscles of the rotator cuff equally.  We have 3 movements that we must do to target the rotator cuff muscles: internal and external rotation of the arm and abduction of the arm.  For simplicity and because the infraspinatus and teres minor both externally rotate the arm, the two will be trained together.

Internal Rotation (video courtesy of Liveexercise.com):

External Rotation:

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Yesterday, I touched on the topic of testosterone and how it relates to muscle growth in response to resistance training.  I then provided reasoning as to why women should not fear the possibility of “getting too big” from resistance training: Women naturally have anywhere from 10 to 20 times LESS testosterone than men, and this is going to act as a big time limiting factor as far as muscle growth is concerned.

I’m sure my ever-compelling reasoning convinced you that you should NOT fear the weight room, but just because it’s not going to hurt you, is it really going to help?

There are two major reasons that women should seriously consider adding resistance training to their current (or future) workout routine:

1) Bone Health-  The incidence of osteoporosis is growing at alarming rate.  The International Osteoporosis Foundation finds that well over 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and approximately 85% of those people are women.  It’s believed that that figure could be as large as 15 million people by the year 2020.  According to “Resistance Training for Health,” published by the American College of Sports Medicine, “Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that is characterized by a decrease in bone mineral density (BMD). This loss makes the bones more susceptible to fractures. These fractures can lead to decreased physical activity and possibly increased susceptibility to further health problems and mortality.”

Bone health should take on the up most importance to all of us, but with such a high incidence in the female population, women must be especially pro-active in slowing the onset of osteoporosis.

Resistance training, it has been shown, is one of the most effective ways to combat bone density issues such as osteoporosis.  Several studies have shown that the stress placed on the bones and joints during resistance training promotes bone repair and formation.  For example: “In a comparison of BMD between female weightlifters, cyclists, cross-country skiers, and orienteers, Heinonen et al. (1993) reported that the weightlifters had the highest weight adjusted BMD in the distal radius, lumbar spine, distal femur, and patella.”

There is reason to believe that the stress placed on the body due to lifting weights promotes greater bone health than doing cardio alone.

2) Body Composition- This is the one most people are already thinking about before they even think about an exercise routine: I want to lose fat, tone up, look and feel better.  When people say they want to “tone up” what they mean is that they want get leaner by reducing their body fat.  To do this, many women take the route of doing as much cardio as possible.  They will get on the elliptical or treadmill for extended periods of time and then head home without ever touching a weight.

Let me first say this- there is nothing wrong with doing cardio.  It’s great for your heart health, and you are burning calories.

However, you are really taking a long and often unsuccessful route if you want look your best.  There are a few things to understand here.  First, if you perform resistance training, you are promoting the development of lean muscle tissue.  Muscle is a very tight and compact tissue when compared to fat, which is much “flabbier.”  In fact, if you had one pound of muscle sitting next to one pound of fat, the fat would take up about 3 times as much space.  Now imagine that we’re talking about around your mid-section or your hips.  If you can replace a pound of fat with a pound of muscle in that area, you’re going to look noticeably more lean.  In order to develop that mean muscle, however, you CAN’T just run until you’re blue in the face.  You have to overload, or really challenge the muscle to elicit the response of muscle development, and that just doesn’t happen when you’re doing long-duration, steady-state cardio.

The next thing to consider is that muscle actually burns calories!  If you increase the amount of lean muscle on your body, you will burn more calories throughout your day without even lifting a finger.  Compared to fat, muscle is a very active tissue and requires more energy to maintain.  A greater energy requirement means a greater caloric burn throughout the day.

There are many other obvious benefits to strength training that are not gender-specific, such as improving strength, improving posture, etc.  But the two reasons listed above should be reason enough for any woman reading to at least consider adding some resistance training to their exercise program.  Read On….

Check back soon for some great new exercise videos, and be sure to check out the brand new Functional Athletic Training Store!

Adam Reeder, cPT
Adam@GetFunctionalTraining.com
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