2 Drills For Easy Access to Shoulder Health
Anyone who’s spent any significant time in the weight room knows how vulnerable the shoulders are to injury.
This isn’t to downplay other areas of the body prone to nefariousness like the lower back or knees. Let’s be clear: those deserve some shade thrown their way too.
Rather, it’s just to point out that, for lack of a better term, trying to train around or even fix a pissed off shoulder sucks donkey balls.
It can be tricky and there are a lot of factors to consider: Exercise selection, exercise technique, posture, access to appropriate scapular motion (upward vs. downward rotation), soft tissue considerations, and breathing patterns to name a few.
Taking all of the above into consideration is a good thing, and I applaud those coaches and trainers who go out of their way to peel back the onion as much as their expertise and experience allows in order to get at the crux of the issue.
I do find, though, that sometimes, not always, we get a little too cute or rabbitholey with our approach to shoulder health.
- Coach A will tell one individual that their shoulder hurts because their left big toe lacks dorsiflexion.
- Coach B tells them it’s because their Posterior Mediastinum is shutting off their diaphragm.
- Coach C says “nope, your shoulder hurts because you’re not back squatting enough.”
- And Coach D, well, he’ll say something really asinine like, “I think it’s because you’re wearing purple. This makes your shoulder sad.”
And yes, while I am being a tad facetious here, I don’t feel I’m coming entirely out of left field. I’ve heard some doozies from past and current clients about what they were told was the impetus behind their shoulder woes.
Moreover, as a result, many clients and trainers alike tend to fall under the same trap….
This falls under two camps:
Camp 1: Trainer gives or person is handed a laundry list of “corrective exercises” that take 327 days to complete.
Camp 2: Trainer prescribes or person is told to perform redundant, borderline stupid exercises.
All of this isn’t to say I’m anti “corrective exercise” or that it should be avoided altogether. There’s a time and place for just about everything1, and sometimes people do need a little bit more TLC to improve motor control, activation, and/or positioning.
PSA: Doing stuff correctly can be corrective. Avoiding excessive anterior humeral glide during push-ups or rows can be a game changer for shoulder health.
However, Dr. Quinn Henoch brought up a valid point when I listened to him speak a few months ago with respects to corrective exercise.
Maybe the real fix for most trainees is something as simple as adjusting their training volume.
Maybe they’re doing too much of one thing or too little of another?
Which brings me back to shoulder ouchies.
Generally speaking, when someone’s shoulder hurts I find most need less bench pressing and more posterior cuff and upper back strength in addition to a healthy dose of scapular stability.
Instead of boring them to tears with warm-up drills they’re likely not going to do on their own anyways, I prefer to include the bulk of the “correctivy” stuff IN THEIR ACTUAL PROGRAM.
That way they just think it’s business as usual and I come across as a straight up boss for helping them cure their shoulder woes.
On Bench Pressing:
There’s lots more to say here, and this will likely make for a good blog post in the future, but in the interim the Tweet below sums things up succinctly:
Bench press hurts your shoulder checklist/hierarchy: 1) audit setup/technique, 2) adjust volume, 3) grip…the…bar….harder, 4) corrective considerations, 5) maybe not bench press? (with a straight bar).
— Tony Gentilcore (@tonygentilcore1) April 17, 2018
On “Correctivey” Stuff
Below are two drills I like to use as fillers that can be performed after sets of squats, deadlifts, and even bench presses. It’s a foolproof way to add more volume to something they’re probably not doing enough of anyways.
It’ll look something like this:
A1. Deadlift/Squat/Bench Pressing/Not Kipping Pull-Ups
A2. Filler (<— correctivy stuff that people just think is part of their program so they actually do it. Hahahahahahahaha. Jokes on them).
1. Band Reverse Flye Walkout
This is a drill I picked up from Jim “Smitty” Smith of Diesel Strength & Conditioning.
As you walk back you need to resist the pull of the band, which torches the rhomboids, muscles of posterior cuff, and scap stabilizers. Be careful you don’t “shrug” throughout, you want to keep shoulder blades depressed and together.
NOTE: 118% more effective if you yell “this….is….Sparta” as you perform your set.
I like to have my clients perform anywhere from 5-10 reps per set.
2. Racked ISO Shoulder Holds
This is another drill I stole from someone smarter than myself, this time a Doctor: Dr. Ryan DeBell of The Movement Fix.
I’ll usually start with 10 second holds at each position per set and ramp up to 20-30s holds per set for my clients (depending on how sadistic I feel).
I’ve seen some very big individuals succumb to this drill. It’s very humbling.
Pepper these two drills into your workouts or that of your clients/athletes more sporadically. I’m certain everyone’s shoulders will start feeling better.