Four Movements for Shoulder Health

BrotherIron

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Recently, I received an message from a middle-aged man who was unable to pick up his 3year old son over his head due to shoulder pain. His goal was very simple. It had nothing to do with big bench numbers. He simply wanted to be able to be an active father for his child. That is a goal worth accomplishing!

Whatever your goals may be, the health of your shoulders should be a top priority in your training program.

I’ll highlight four exercises for healthy shoulders:

1. Inverted Row
The idea of doing body weight exercises isn’t the sexiest thing in the world. However, I promise that if you do these correctly, your shoulders will feel better. To do these correctly, you must get your chest to the bar. I’m convinced that 75 percent of the shoulder problems can be solved simply by improving scapular stability. By pulling the bar to your sternum, you will force your scapula into a retracted position and activate your middle and lower traps two big, scapular stabilizers. By strengthening this movement, not only will you improve shoulder function, but you will be able to hold your bench position much easier as well.

2. Hand Walk Variations
The importance of the serratus anterior in shoulder and scapular function has been written about a lot. You may have heard of a push-up plus or a scapular push-up. Both of these push-up variations do a great job of working this muscle by creating protraction of the scapula.

Hand walks, on the other hand, work by resisting retraction and force the serratus to work eccentrically. The key to hand walks is to keep a tight core and keep your shoulders in protraction. Don’t allow them to collapse. What you get is a rotator cuff firing like crazy to stabilize a compressed humeral head, scapular stabilizers being strengthened in a dynamic manner, and pelvic stabilizers firing to keep the torso rigid.

3. Overhead Kettlebell Work
I think overhead lifting is a must for proper shoulder function. In order to establish proper scapula-humeral rhythm, bringing the arms overhead is essential. Add in the rotator cuff benefits of overhead lifting and the thoracic extension necessary to do standing overhead lifts, and I don’t see how you can leave it out.

Kettlebells offer us one big advantage over dumbbells. When we grab dumbbells, we’re able to control the center of gravity. This isn’t the case with kettlebells. Our rotator cuffs are going to have to work harder to stabilize the weight overhead.

Try this simple progression using light weights first:
Kettlebell overhead press (light weight)

Overhead kettlebell walks

Overhead kettlebell split squat

Overhead kettlebell split squat and press

Overhead kettlebell walking lunge

Overhead kettlebell step-up or walking lunge and press

The combination of overhead lifting and dynamic movement gives the rotator cuff a great stimulus for improvements and strength gains.

4. Weighted Chin-Ups
Balance is the key to shoulder health not just the balance in volume but the balance in load. Here is my challenge to all the big benchers out there can you do a chin-up with the same weight that you can bench raw?

Incorporate these exercises into your routine and see if your shoulders don't feel better and handle workloads easier.
 

Uncle manny

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Good stuff right there! Especially mentioning the serratus. Shoulders have the most range of motion so they always take the most beating. The past year I’ve been incorporating a bunch of trx work pre and post push and pull days and it’s made a world of a difference.

Something I think every one can benefit from is paying more attention to your shoulder health.
 

CJ275

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Totally agree on the scapula stability. I feel like people focus so much on rotator cuffs, but if your scapula isn’t moving right nothing will.

100% thuth!!!!!
 

Mhenshaw

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I had never thought about the center of gravity with kettleballs. Great post!
 

Send0

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With the exception of weighted chin ups, the exercises you listed are a staple that my physical therapist has me perform all the time. I can 100% confirm that if you have issues related to the scapula; such as I do with scapular retraction in the left shoulder, that these exercises will help make it better.

The overhead kettlebell work in particular is surprisingly hard. It's a completely different kind of strength from just lifting heavy ass weights. I feel like a weakling everytime they have me do it, but I know it's necessary.

Excellent post!
 

ATLRigger

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I did the the bent over rows this morning but i always feel like I’m swinging the weight instead of controlling it, no matter how light i go.
 

CJ275

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I did the the bent over rows this morning but i always feel like I’m swinging the weight instead of controlling it, no matter how light i go.

He's saying INVERTED Rows, not Bentover Rows. It's a BW movement, no weights involved...althiugh there could be as you advance, ie weight vest.

Lay down flat on the floor, extend your arms straight up towards the ceiling. Set your barbell or rings height a few inches above where your hands are. Pull your body up towards the bar/rings.

Can do these from many angles to accommodate current strength levels,, and can even bend your knees and do them flat footed for a little lighter load.

It's a great exercise. I hang rings from my rack to do these, so I can get different hand positions and elbow angles if I'm trying to hit my lats or upper/mid back.
 

creekrat

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I did the the bent over rows this morning but i always feel like I’m swinging the weight instead of controlling it, no matter how light i go.

BI was referencing an inverted or supine row. Basically hanging from the bar in a "reverse" push up pose and rowing your body weight to the bar.
 

Runningwild

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I do neuromuscular work with professional athletes and scap stability is huge. I have also found the infraspinatus/supraspinatus to be huge when it comes to shoulder health..man people have an imbalance here when it comes to the shoulder joint. There are 17 muscles that attach to the scap and very easy to throw things off when one muscles is weak or not functioning properly. I have also found that I get pain in my right shoulder with overhead movements but when I keep trigger points at the middle delt attachment at bay it helps alot.
 
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Thanks for this thread. Starting to get shoulder pain with overhead barbell movements. PT had me doing similar excercises to strengthen the shoulder muscles.

One excercise she really stressed was what she called the shoulder lockout. You lay on your side with a kettle bell and basically reach for the sky and hold. Do a similar excercise from the pushup position where your keep your elbows straight but do shallow push-ups work your shoulders only.
 

ATLRigger

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Oh yes inverted rows. I used to do those warming up for pull-ups.
 
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