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MX Related Shoulder Injuries

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

Anatomy of the Shoulder Joint

Shoulder injuries are a common occurrence in motocross racing. All it takes is one decent crash or tip-over and the impact of landing on your side can result in a shoulder dislocation or separation. If you have been one of the rider’s unfortunate enough to have had to deal with a nagging shoulder injury, you know how debilitating it can be. For those who have never experienced problems in the shoulder joint, the obvious key element is to keep the area strong & healthy to decrease the likelihood of sustaining any future injury while training or racing.

Two important facets of shoulder wellness and function are prevention and rehab. Prevention implies maintaining joint integrity and strength so that the shoulder can handle the rigors of motocross. Most riders know the importance of maintaining an ‘elbows-up’ posture while riding for the best results when attacking the track, and this is made considerably easier if the shoulder is strong and can support the arm and the impacts that acceleration, chop, braking bumps, etc. are throwing at you. Strength and integrity are best maintained through such activities as proper weight training, swimming, and rowing. As always, the most productive program will be one under the guidance of an experienced and certified professional, such as a personal trainer or a strength and conditioning coach.

Technicalities of the Shoulder Joint
Lets have a quick look at the shoulder joint in a little more detail. The shoulder is made up of three bones, and the tendons of four muscles (tendons attach muscle to bone.) The bones are called the "Scapula," the "Humerus" and the "Clavicle." Or, in layman's terms, the shoulder blade, the upper arm bone and the collarbone, respectively. The four muscles which make up the shoulder joint are called, the "Supraspinatus," the "Infraspinatus," the "Teres Minor" and the "Subscapularis." It is the tendons of these muscles, which connect to the bones, that help to move your arm. In the picture, three of the four muscles are visible, the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus and the teres minor. These are the muscles which are viewed from the rear, or posterior. The subscapularis is not visible because it can only be viewed from the front, or anterior and this particular view only shows the muscles from the rear, is if looking at someone's back. Technical enough for you? I'll stop there.

Three degrees of separation

Causes of Injuries
There are two major causes of most shoulder injuries. The first being degeneration, or general wear and tear. Unfortunately, the shoulder is a tendinous area that receives very little blood supply. The tendons of the rotator cuff muscles receive very little oxygen and nutrients from blood supply, and as a result are especially vulnerable to degeneration with aging. This is why shoulder problems in the elderly are common. This lack of blood supply is also the reason why a shoulder injury can take quite a lot of time to heal.

The second cause of most shoulder injuries is due to excessive force, or simply putting too much strain on the tendons of the shoulder muscles. This is the most common type of MX injury and usually occurs when a force is applied to the arm while it's in an unusual or awkward position or if you try to lift something that is too heavy.

There are countless exercises utilizing free weights, machines, and TRX Based body weight exercises which can be used to strengthen the muscles of the shoulder joint. Four such exercises are illustrated below. Other common exercises such as the push-up employ the shoulder as well.

Seated Shoulder Press

  1. Sit upright on bench with dumbbells over head. Make sure back is flat.
  2. Lower dumbbells slowly to shoulders.
  3. When arms are at 90 degrees, press the dumbbells back up and repeat.

Lateral Raises

  1. Stand upright, knees slightly bent, shoulder width apart, holding dumbbells at sides.
  2. Bend elbows slightly and raise the dumbbells out to sides. Keep elbows slightly bent throughout.
  3. When arms are parallel to floor, slowly lower back and repeat.

Reverse flies

  1. Sit on edge of bench, feet flat on the floor. Bend over so chest is almost resting on thighs.
  2. Hold dumbbells next to feet and bend arms slightly. Open arms out keeping elbows bent.
  3. When arms are parallel to floor, slowly lower dumbbells back.

Front Raises

  1. Stand upright, knees slightly bent, shoulder width apart. Palms should be towards thighs.
  2. Raise one dumbbell directly in front of you.
  3. When arm is parallel to ground lower dumbbell slowly back. Repeat with the other arm.
TRX Based Exercises

Rehabilitation comes into play for those riders who have sustained an injury during the prior season(s) and are looking to return to full function as well as avoid issues in the future. Case in point: Chad Reed. He has had multiple shoulder injuries over the last couple of seasons and must incorporate rehab based strength training into his program to excel at his optimal level. An important component of proper shoulder conditioning is to make sure the shoulder is addressed as a whole. The major muscles of the deltoid, as well as the smaller underlying muscles, all need stimulation. These smaller tissues are what are commonly referred to as the rotator cuff, and are prone to tearing if left inflexible and weak. Again, this is where having the proper advice of a professional such as a physical therapist or rehab assistant are advisable. If you are coming off an injury, it is always tempting to rush through the recovery process and load the bike up and head off to the track, but remember that with some patience and sound rehab practices, your results could be vastly improved.

Related Articles:
TRX Based Shoulder Exercises
Surgery to Repair Shoulder Joint Fractures

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    Kevin October 19, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Thanks for the read! I've got a nagging shoulder injury that acts up every once in awhile. Building strong surrounding muscles really helps.

  2. Gravatar
    Rob Styron October 20, 2010 at 8:09 am

    "...the push-up employ the shoulder as well." Actually, most people are "push dominant", so pushups are not a good shoulder exercise. It will just exacerbate the imbalance causing the athlete to be more susceptible to a shoulder impingement. What the athlete needs to do is focus strengthening the upper back as well as the complete shoulder complex.

    Rob Styron

  3. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer October 20, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Good point Rob. I hope everyone understands that I was not suggesting doing all of these exercises and nothing else for the shoulder. This article was meant to point out POSSIBLE exercises to use as part of a complete program which certainly includes exercises that focus on balance between the front and rear of the body.

  4. Gravatar
    Chris October 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I've had shoulder injuries and found that the shoulder presses can give an uneasy feeling (so I omit this). The nice thing about the bottom three exercises (front/lateral raise and reverse flies) is the low amount of weight needed to keep the shoulder in shape with these exercises. The biggest thing, use the very best form possible and do the movements slowly (controlled).

  5. Gravatar
    BeatPotato January 14, 2011 at 11:44 am

    After 2 torn rotator cuffs, and one severely botched surgery. I know exactly what its like with shoulder injuries. I am strong, I workout regularly. I feel 100% with my shoulder, Until i try to put on a seatbelt or Lift anything overhead. after having 1 surgery already, when i had the second one i knew what i was getting into. I did Those 4 excercises four times a week followed by treading water. I healed Twice as fast literally. I was actually able to do girl push ups within a month (not recomended, just to see if I could). Couldn't believe how quick I bounced back. It was about 7 months before riding again as versed to 1 year on the first surgery

  6. Gravatar
    localTN August 05, 2015 at 10:06 am

    I've dislocated my shoulder for the first time months ago (2 or 3) and have only rode twice since but every time I've "crashed"
    (falling on it in turns, minimal errors) both times my shoulder goes weak for half a month or so. I understand exercise is half the battle but does any one have a good recommendation on a supportive shoulder brace that would apply to my case?

  7. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer August 05, 2015 at 10:58 am

    localTN - As with any injury never ask for medical advice online. I highly recommend you see a doctor to get your shoulder fully evaluated. It sounds to me like there is more going on than meets the eye. Thanks!

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