In Part 1, I outlined 6 of the 13 tips to improve shoulder health, here are the last 7.
7) Use A Neutral Grip When You Train
By switching the majority of your upper body push and pull movements to a neutral-grip (such as dumbbell bench presses, rows, chin ups etc.), you allow the shoulder joint to move a bit more freely, leading to less impingement, and a happier shoulder in general.
To take this a step further, you can also temporarily limit the range of motion that you use on your pressing movements, like the floor presses below.
‘8) Stop Training The Rotator Cuff Too Heavy, Or To Fatigue
Typical ‘meat-head’ philosophy says that you have to be pushing yourself as hard as you can on every rep, of every set – right?
Whilst I can understand people wanting to train hard and push themselves, when doing this with the RC, you’re actually shooting yourself in the foot.
The problem with ‘maxing out’, or going to fatigue, on rotator cuff exercises is that a) the larger ‘prime’ mover muscles take over, because the smaller ‘cuff muscles aren’t able to bear the burden of the load themselves, and b) the proper activation sequence of the movement (i.e. ensuring that the right muscle is firing at the right time) will be faulty…making all of those external rotations useless!
To further salt the wound, I’ve also read in Mike Reinold’s writing that training the rotator cuff to fatigue actually increases the likelihood of shoulder impingement. Needless to say, your shoulder won’t love you for that one.
9) Swap Bench Pressing For Push Ups
In #7 I told you to start using a neutral grip, because it opens up the shoulder joint. Moving into a pronated position, i.e. a palms facing down, such as a bench press, actually closes the joint, and can lead to greater instances of impingement.
What this means to you is that the bench press doesn’t doesn’t give your arms any “wiggle room” in terms of the shoulder positioning during the lift; and you simply don’t want your shoulders stuck in a bad position throughout a weighted movement.
Push Ups, on the other hand, are a closed-chain horizontal pushing movement, which allow for normal scapular movement, and in turn, have a great effect on strengthening the all important serratus anterior muscle that we discussed in #6.
In short – your shoulders love push ups, but probably hate bench pressing.
10) Do 100 Band Pull Aparts Each & Every Day
This is so simple, yet effective, that it should be criminal. In fact, speaking of criminal, I actually stole this idea from another strength coach – so kudos goes out to you, Jason Ferruggia!
Band Pull Aparts help balance out the back to chest ratio that we touched upon in #4. Furthermore, they take so little out of you in terms of effort/muscular fatigue that you can do them every day without banging up your body.
To do these, all you have to do is grab a mini band, hold it out in front of you and try to rip it apart. Pull it out all the way so that your arms are straight out to your sides like a ‘T’ and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
11) Start Doing More Proprioceptive Work
Shoulder stability is very important, and while we gain a lot of our stability from having a well functioning body, sometimes we just need to do some specific stability (or proprioception) work; just to teach the shoulder how to recruit muscles in order to protect itself.
You can do your stability work in a number of ways, and it can be performed with dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or some other implement; it doesn’t matter the tool, just how you get it done.
Some of my favoured go-to exercises for shoulder stability work are Turkish Get Ups, Waiters Walks, and Side Planks w/ Pertubations on the free arm.
12) Add Face Pulls To Every Warm Up
The face pull is an exercise that is fantastic at recruiting the musculature of the lower trapezius, which we learnt from point #6 play a large role in allowing us to get a clean movement when raising our arms overhead.
It’s also really easy to execute. Traditionally, the face pull is performed with a rope handle and a pronated grip. I, however, prefer the supinated-grip version, simply because it opens up the shoulder joint a bit more, and also helps in reversing the poor posture position of rolled forward shoulder.
Do them in every warm up, and also as a filler exercise in between sets of bigger movements.
13) Do Your External Rotation Work With Your Arms Propped Up to 30 Degrees
It’s been shown, via EMG data, to result in a greater recruitment of the rotator cuff musculature. Here is my favourite variation of these –