The shoulder joint is an amazing structure which allows us as humans to throw, pull, push and rotate our arm through a large range of motion. This joint is extremely mobile but is somewhat muscle-dependent as it lacks a strong surrounding ligament support system. The muscles that help secure our shoulder joint are the rotator cuff muscles and primarily consist of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and the subscapularis. Anatomical terminology aside, these muscles are part of the infrastructure that is responsible for the health of your shoulder joint. Exhibit weakness or inflexibility in any of these muscles and you’re bound to encounter shoulder tendonitis, bursitis or a potentially more devastating injury. Fear not, these muscles are easy to stimulate and require only a few minutes per day to activate, mobilize and strengthen.
Mobility is essential for allowing the soft tissues to align properly so the strengthening portion can be most effective. There are two spots that need to be addressed before we can work on the rotator cuff muscles.
1) Thoracic Spine – this area is located in the mid to upper back running along side the spine and between the shoulder blades. Lay down on a roller or conjoined ball then fold over the item. From here sit up by engaging the core and then relaxing. Perform this sequence 2 – 3 times before moving up the spine one vertebrae at a time. Remember, never roll directly on the boney structure of the spine, just the adjacent muscles.
2) Anterior Deltoid – this area is located in the front of the shoulder. Start by laying face down on a roller or large ball, targeting the specified area. Now raise the arm overhead then slowly perform a reverse snow angel until your arms are almost reaching into your back pockets before returning to the arm overhead. Repeat 10 times on each side. Remember, this technique can be performed against a wall should you experience a lot of discomfort on the floor.
Now that we have loosened up the area and allowed it to function more efficiently it is time to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles with a simple set of exercises, T’s, Y’s and I’s.
T’s – Lay face down with arms straight out by the side at 90 degrees so the body and arms form the letter “T”. Make sure the thumbs are pointing up at all times. Now squeeze the shoulder blades together by raising the arms a few inches off the ground, hold for 2 seconds then relaxing and repeating for a total of 20 repetitions.
Y’s – In the same position we now shift our arms up to form the letter “Y”. Again, make sure the thumbs are pointing up while lifting the arms and squeezing the shoulder blades for 2 full seconds before relaxing. Repeat for a total of 20 repetitions.
I’s – Lastly, the body position remains the same but the arms reach all the way overhead so the biceps are next to the ears with the thumbs facing up. Now pinch the shoulder blades together and raise the arms overhead for a 2 second pause before relaxing. You guessed it, another 20 repetitions.
These mobility techniques can be performed for a combined 5 minutes while the rotator cuff strengthening exercises should start with 1 set of 20 repetitions and then increasing to 2, 3 or 4 sets over the course of weeks or until the athlete exhibits the control and muscular endurance to perform properly. Stay on top of these techniques and your chance of injury goes down drastically.
The importance of hydration for good health and properly functioning body systems cannot be overstated. As the warmer months approach and outdoor activities increase, special attention needs to be given to proper hydration and to the prevention of heat illnesses for all, but especially for young athletes.
Because the body cannot store water, we must constantly provide and supply it with water to maintain our body’s many functioning systems. While water contains zero calories, it is considered a nutrient, comprising 55-70% of our body’s composition.
Acting as a cooling agent for our body, water is also essential for all major bodily functions, to include:
Contrary to popular belief, simply drinking water when you are thirsty is not good advice when it comes to properly hydrating the body. When the thirst mechanism activates, it is usually a sign the body is already under hydrated (and possibly headed toward dehydration). At this point, the body has to catch up to function properly.
How Much Water Is Enough?So, how much water should young athletes drink? The answer is - it depends. Water intake is based on several variables, and even within that set, will vary according to the needs of the individual. General considerations of hydration might be based on the length of the activity, environmental conditions such as heat and humidity, the length and intensity of the practice or game, and additional gear the athlete may be wearing, such as football or hockey gear.
While considering some of the environmental factors of hydration, consideration must be given to the individual needs of the athlete, such as the weight and age of the athlete, the intensity level at which the athlete trains or plays, the current physical conditioning of the athlete, and the current hydration level of the athlete. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)recommends drinking four to eight ounces of water every fifteen to twenty minutes of exercise as a good starting point for hydrating athletes.
The ACSM provides the following guidelines for the maintenance of optimal hydration:
The Importance of Grip Strength
Grip strength has been an integral part of conditioning for baseball for decades. Why? Because years of practical experience and scientific research indicate that grip strength can have a significant effect on offensive performance in professional baseball players. In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (1), 343 professional baseball players in the Texas Rangers organization were tested over the course of two separate seasons. Players represented all levels within the Rangers organization. Ninety Rookie Ball players, 84 A-ball players, 50 AA players; 52 AAA players and 62 Major League players were tested for grip strength, power, speed and agility. Regression equations were developed to determine the relationship between each of these tests and performance as measured by home runs, total bases, slugging percentage and stolen bases. While the results indicated that the best predictors of over-all performance were power, speed and agility, grip strength was significantly related to home runs, total bases and slugging percentage. It is also interesting to note that the players that had the most lean body mass, greatest power, fastest speed and best agility, also had the most grip strength.
Training for grip strength should be similar to that for other forms of strength. Baseline values should be obtained and training should follow a periodization model in which exercises, volume and intensity are varied throughout the season. Assessments of grip strength should be performed at regular intervals to determine progress, evaluate program effectiveness and monitor compliance.
Most “authorities” on grip strength say that there are two basic types of grip strength:
Harvard Health Blog » Grip strength may provide clues to heart health - Harvard Health Blog
Grip strength may provide clues to heart health!
POSTED MAY 19, 2015, 12:11 PM , UPDATED SEPTEMBER 08, 2016, 5:16 PM
Howard LeWine, M.D., Chief Medical Editor, Internet Publishing, Harvard Health PublicationsA strong or weak hand grip carries more than just social cues. It may also help measure an individual’s risk for having a heart attack or stroke, or dying from cardiovascular disease.
As part of the international Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study, researchers measured grip strength in nearly 140,000 adults in 17 countries and followed their health for an average of four years. A device called a dynamometer was used to assess grip strength.
Each 11-pound decrease in grip strength over the course of the study was linked to a 16% higher risk of dying from any cause, a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, a 9% higher risk of stroke, and a 7% higher risk of heart attack.
The connections between grip strength and death or cardiovascular disease remained strong even after the researchers adjusted for other things that can contribute to heart disease or death, such as age, smoking, exercise, and other factors. The findings were published online in The Lancet. Interestingly, grip strength was a better predictor of death or cardiovascular disease than blood pressure.
“Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual’s risk of death and cardiovascular disease,” said lead author Dr. Darryl Leong, from the Population Health Research Institute at Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University in Canada, in a news release.
Is grip strength a measure of biological age?The findings from the PURE study aren’t new. Previous research has also linked grip strength with future disability, death, and the onset of cardiovascular disease in adults. But this is the largest study to have made the connection. The fact that grip strength was a relevant measure across high-income, middle-income, and low-income countries lends credence to the findings.
An individual’s age in years (chronological age) can be quite different from his or her biological age. Although there’s no exact definition for biological age, it generally indicates whether the body is functioning better or worse than its chronological age.
Many things influence biological age. Key factors include overall physical fitness, the presence or absence of certain medical conditions, and muscle strength.
The PURE study suggests that simply measuring one’s hand grip strength could be a good way to assess biological age. In an editorial accompanying the PURE results, Avan Aihie Sayer and Thomas Kirkwood of the University of Southampton and Newcastle University, both in the United Kingdom, suggest that “grip strength might act as a biomarker of ageing across the life course.”
One intriguing finding was that a weaker hand grip wasn’t associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cancer, or other chronic conditions. So why would it be linked with a greater risk of dying? The researchers suggest that weaker muscle strength makes it more likely that a person will die sooner if he or she develops a chronic medical problem, compared with those who have more muscle strength. In other words, muscle strength could be good for survival.
Strong muscles need work, nutrients, restTo build muscle strength, do resistance training two or three times per week. Give your muscles one or two days off in between workouts.
Most people turn to dumbbells and weight machines to build muscles. Resistance bands work just as well. They are flat or tubular rubber bands that provide resistance as you move your arms and legs through different ranges of motion.
You don’t have to limit muscle building to workouts. Take advantage of daily activities to challenge your muscles. For example:
Finally, your muscles need healthy nutrients to get stronger. You don’t need protein supplements or lots of meat. Beans, nuts, and fish can provide plenty of healthy protein. Get your carbs from whole grains and foods made from them. And eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
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