The shoulder joint is the most flexible joint in the body, allowing you a very wide range of movement. However, this flexibility comes at a cost, as the shoulder joint is very unstable, precisely because it is so flexible.
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Shoulder health is essential in everyday life, and even more so if you’re into bodybuilding. I can’t think of any upper body exercise that doesn’t employ the shoulder joint in some way, except for abs exercises.
Apart from the instability of the shoulder joint, there are two reasons why so many folks have unhealthy shoulders;
First, they do their upper body pressing movements with terrible technique, which puts strain on the shoulder joint. This could take the form of bench pressing too high up on the body, or allowing the elbows to flare out in the bench press or overhead press.
So if this is you, clean up your technique!
Second, all of us have an imbalance between internal and external shoulder rotation strength.
Let me explain;
Imagine you’re shaking hands with someone. Better still, actually do this so you can prove it to yourself.
Try and move the hand you’re shaking with to the opposite side of your body – so if you’re right handed, try and rotate your hand to the left side of the body.
That’s internal rotation of the shoulder joint.
Now try and move your hand the other side – that is external rotation.
All of us are much stronger at internal rotation than external rotation – the trick then is to build up external rotation strength.
This can be done using the l-fly exercise – it only takes five minutes a week – probably less than that! I myself had a shoulder injury from bad bench pressing technique, and I was able to cure it entirely using this exercise, so I know how valuable it is.
Here’s how to do the l-fly.
Take a very light dumbbell in one hand. Now lay on your side on your exercise bench. If you’re doing the right shoulder you lay on your left side, and vice versa.
Keep your upper arm tight against your side, with your forearm at 90 degrees to your upper arm. Now try and lift the dumbbell up by keeping your upper arm against your side while rotating the hand holding the ‘bell away from you – you should feel this in the shoulder joint.
Absolutely do not force this, and be very careful about adding weight to the dumbbell. When you’ve lifted the ‘bell as high as you can without forcing, then lower it to the start position – that is one rep.
Two sets of say eight reps a side should be all you need, once a week. Do this exercise at the end of your workout, after your big pressing exercises. (This will mean that you haven’t tired the shoulders out before your bench press or overhead press.)
It’s important not to rush the reps. Keep the tempo slow and deliberate.