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Shoulder Pain? Look To The Farmer!


Or more accurately, the farmer’s hold. This is a fantastic exercise that works to strengthen the rotator cuff using an isometric contraction.

Shoulder pain can often be due to a strain or irritation of the rotator cuff, which is a group of four muscles comprised of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. Now, each of these muscles have their own specific action that they do independently from one another. Supraspinatus initiates abduction of the upper arm, infraspinatus and teres minor perform external rotation of the upper arm, and subscapularis does internal rotation. Collectively, they all have one job that is incredibly important: keep the head of the humerus in the glenoid fossa of the scapula. Or in other words, keep the ball in the socket.

Often, you may see people in the gym “warming up” their shoulders with a light dumbbell or resistance band and do some internal or external rotation. And that’s all well and good, but the farmer’s hold may be a better exercise to do in order to prime these muscles to do their most basic function.

To do this exercise, simply grab a moderate to heavy weight dumbbell and hold it. Think about keeping your shoulder blades adhered to your rib cage, without shrugging. I’ll say that again… NO SHRUGGING OF THE SHOULDERS!

So, imagine you have a $100 bill in your armpit and someone is trying to take it from you. Now squeeze that bill so that you don’t lose it. When you do this, you should feel your entire shoulder girdle light up. All four rotator cuff muscles, the pec, the lat, the deltoid, upper, middle, lower trap, serratus anterior, and rhomboids should all be firing! You may even feel your biceps and triceps firing as well.

The farmer’s hold can be done while holding a dumbbell in either both hands or one at a time. If holding only one dumbbell, try to keep your shoulders level. Again, that means no shrugging, but also don’t lean or shift your torso away from the side holding the dumbbell.



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