The Most Complex Joint In Your Body – The Anatomy Of The Shoulder

What is the most complex joint in your body?


A lot of people would suggest the wrist, and to some extent they may have a point, but more fundamental than that is the shoulder.


The shoulder girdle is covered in muscles that allow complex and multi directional movement ad it forms the basis of all of your upper body strength.


More Than Lifting Skin The Cat Rhys Colour Wheel The Most Complex Joint In Your Body Anatomy Of The Shoulder 

Skin The Cat is a great shoulder mobility exercise that will help train the rotator cuff muscles​


The fitness world is littered with shoulder injuries, and once the damage is done, it is done, so you need to take the time to look after them.


If there is one thing worth educating yourself on, it’s your shoulders. If you really want to get the most out of your training, it is worth understanding the most widely used joint, the strongest and most active joint in your body.


If you don’t know the parts, you will struggle to look after them right?


Let’s break down the components.


The Anatomy Of The Shoulder


There are two main components of your shoulder, 2 big groups of muscles that allow the range of motion and the stability we get from our shoulders.


They are the Rotator Cuff Muscles, and the Scapula Stabilisers.


Rotator Cuff:


The Rotator Cuff is the most damaged part of the shoulder, ask the guys down the gym, they will either have done theirs in or their mate did. This hidden group of muscles is injured by almost 30% of the population!


The Rotator Cuff Muscles:


Supraspinatus – mostly moves the arm away from the body and is most commonly torn of damaged

Infraspinatus – rotates the arm away from the body and helps slow the arm as it circles overhead

Teres Minor – also helps externally rotate the shoulder

Subscapularis – internal rotation and pulling the arm into the body, similar to the pectoral muscles


These muscles work against the deltoids on top of you arm.


These muscles are often neglected or over trained resulting in injury one way or the other. Because they aren’t on show, they are hidden deep in the shoulder; it is easy to forget about them. People are naturally more inclined to train the surface muscles because they can show them off, but if you aren’t looking after your rotator cuffs, you are setting yourself up for injury.


They work together with the scapula muscles and so the body often compensates for weakness by putting more stress on other muscles around it, making it difficult to pin point areas of weakness.


Just as important as the Rotator Cuffs are the Scapula Stabilisers.


They attach to the shoulder blade to your body and enable free movement while supporting the shoulder blade on your back.


Scapula Stabilisers:


Serratus anterior – protracts scapula, assists in upward rotation

Upper trapezius – shrugs the shoulder and turns the shoulder blade upwards

Middle Trapezius – pinches the shoulder blade back behind the body

Lower Trapezius – pulls the shoulder back and down

Rhomboids – pinches the shoulder blade back behind the body, like the Mid Traps


These two groups of muscles work together to move your shoulder, so you need to train both of them, you need to build immense shoulder strength if you want to smash out the power moves like the planche or hollow back.


Shoulder Posture


Keeping your shoulders in the right place is very important, this means you need to have good posture, or at least, you need to be working on it!


Sitting and standing with good posture makes a big difference. Slouching rounds your shoulders forward, closing the space for the rotator cuffs causing your back to arch, which in turn, messes with your core and back


Good posture is important and posture corrective exercises and routine flexibility training will work to prevent damage over time.


Good posture is the basis for serious body strength. Posture is a reflection of good muscle tension, in other words your muscles are what holds your skeleton in the right place. If you disregard your posture, you are setting yourself up for injury in the long run.


Desk jobs, the bane of the fitness world, encourage poor posture, meaning you need to constantly work to counteract the down time at the desk.


It isn’t all bad news though,


Doing yoga, regular stretching and body weight exercises will all help to correct posture and build a solid foundation for shoulder strength and stability.


This is because you are training your body within the parameters of it’s natural movement.


Gym training is all about muscle isolation exercises, these can work against you because you work at odd and unnatural angles to target one or two muscle groups specifically – bad times!


One of the most important areas to stretch to maintain your shoulders is your chest – surprisingly.


Stretching your chest will draw the shoulders back and help counteract the rounded slouched shoulder look which we all suffer from.


One of the key things to do if you want to look after your shoulders is to warm them up properly and extensively before you do any hard training. Take the time to stretch and do some light exercises to help get them ready for the hard work – you will notice a difference for sure!


Not a lot of people do this enough and so they end up with sore shoulders after training, often being unable to lift their hands over their head. Training smart will help prevent sore shoulders post-workout, allowing you to train them to the death without worrying about risky injuries.


The Shoulders Can Easily Be Damaged And Overworked


Since the Rotator Cuff muscles are so small, the best way to strengthen them is doing high volumes of reps with low resistance or weights, this can take the form of scapula push ups, pull ups and dips.


These low resistance exercises will help you really max them out without running the risk of damage and will build a solid foundation to help you get to the more advanced exercises safely.


Remember this:


These aren’t body building muscles. You aren’t going to get huge from doing scapula push ups, but you will build muscle there, you will develop strong and stable joints preventing injury long term.


This brings us to another important lesson about training.


Always think about how you are controlling your movement, awareness of your body is the key to executing the complex calisthenics exercises we are all striving for. This is why it is important to work on a solid foundation to build the strength and stability needed to be able to pull them off, without damaging your body.


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