Fitness – The Shoulder Load

Protect your shoulders to stay in the fight.

Shoulder pain, whether it’s chronic or acute, is one of the most common injuries for mixed martial artists. During combat sports, the occurrence of shoulder injuries is increased due to impact forces, repetitive use, and the range of motion required for performing certain moves.

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body, however, what the human body gains in mobility, it lacks with stability. Shoulder stability is provided by ligaments, capsule, and more than 20 muscular attachments, but these structures are placed under incredible amounts of stress during the compressive and repetitive activities involved during MMA competition.

3 Common Shoulder Injuries

Rotator Cuff Impingement
Rotator cuff impingement primarily occurs because of a chronically forward head and the rounded shoulders posture of a fighter’s stance. Repetitive strikes can cause inflammation of these impinged tendons and the bursa (cushion).

Shoulder Joint Dislocation
Because of the lack of stability of the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint, injury can occur when overpressure is applied to the arm when it is placed in the “throwing motion” or the 90/90 position during submissions.

AC Joint Separations
AC joint (top of the shoulder) separations occur when a fighter lands directly onto the point of the shoulder. It usually occurs with compressive forces because of the fighter’s body weight (and opponent’s weight) being driven into the mat.

Avoid the Pain

To avoid these injuries, fighters must learn to be more aware of their postural positioning outside of the gym, which will allow adequate rest of shoulder structures. The more stable and flexible a shoulder joint is, the less likely it is to become injured. Try incorporating the Six-Pack Back into your fitness regimen to keep your shoulders strong and flexible.


Perform this sequence 10 times every 3-5 days.

To start, lean your chest against a stability ball and let your arms drop down toward the floor. Start with a light dumbbell in each hand. The six movements are performed in sequence with one repetition of each movement. (This will be your starting position as well as your ending position.)

1. Perform a row by bending your arms and lifting your elbows toward the ceiling until your upper arms are even with your body.

2. Rotate both of your arms to bring the weights to a position on either side of your head. Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees.

3. Pull your elbows inward toward your sides.

4. Extend your arms forward.

5. Return to position 2.

6. Return to position 1, and then return to the starting position.

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