Top 6 Exercises To Take Back Your Shoulder Health
Struggling With Shoulder Pain and Injuries? Do These 6 Exercises...

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Rebuilding Shoulder Strength, Stability & Performance

When it comes to excelling at pull-ups, bench press or literally ANY other movement on earth, having strong and stable shoulders, and also being able to control the mobility of your shoulders and shoulder blades is absolutely imperative for performance and shoulder health. Many people fall short of their goals, or irritate their body in the process due to their shoulders not quite being up to the task.

Take it from me, as I’ve lived it! A decade ago I sustained a brutal shoulder injury on the soccer field. I jumped up to head the ball, I got a lot of airand meanwhile, an opponent took my legs out from me. As I attempted to brace my fall, I landed on an outstretched arm and subluxed my shoulder.

But being the stubborn and ultra-competitive person that I am, I chose to keep playing and NEVER focused on rebuilding my shoulder health and stability. I did not possess the knowledge (and looking back on it, also common sense) I have now, for the rest of my 20s, and for part of my 30s, I’ve had to train through shoulder aches and pains which have been challenging and impaired performance inside the gym as well as on the field.

Injuries make you appreciate the health and functionality of my body more than ever before, and I have prioritized my shoulder health, an the shoulder health of my clients because of this experience. Believe me, shoulder health absolutely matters!

Here are 6 of my favorite exercises for improving shoulder health and function, especially as it relates to the stability and control of the shoulder blade area. I am including some exercises that address stability, and others that address controlled mobility in this continuum of shoulder health. Being mobile is great, but you also must be able to own your mobility and stabilize those ranges of motion. These exercises will help. All of these exercises also help improve lumbo-pelvic stability, which will have a positive carryover to your ability to perform pull-ups.

#1 Kettlebell Transfers From Bear Crawl Position

This exercise develops shoulder and scapular controlled mobility on the side that is moving (and stability on the side that is planted), and lumbo-pelvic stability. With this exercise, you do not need to use a lot of resistance for the exercise to be effective and challenging.

Coaching Notes:

  1. Aside from your moving arm, the rest of your body should remain in a fixed position. Do not allow your lower back to hyperextend, ribcage to flare, torso or hips to rotate, hips to pike or collapse, or weight to shift from foot to foot. This is reflective of a lack of lumbo-pelvic stability.
  2. On the moving side, not keep your shoulder blade pinned. It is meant to move. Do not mindlessly hang out on the shoulder on the planted side. Press your body away from the floor and protract your shoulder blade (move it away from the spine). As for the moving arm, 100% of the movement should be executed with pristine control.
  3. Make this exercise easier by using a heavier kettlebell.Make this exercise more challenging by using a lighter kettlebell.
  4. You can also perform this exercise using a dumbbell.

#2 Tall Kneeling Landmine Presses

This exercise develops upper body strength, shoulder and scapular controlled mobility, and lumbo-pelvic stability. Landmine presses are often a great option for people who are not able to perform overhead presses, perhaps due to an injury, current lack of technical ability, a lack of overhead mobility, or a combination of the above (or other factors).

Landmine presses are often very anti-extension in nature, and will help you learn how to generate the necessary levels of tension if you wish to excel at pull-ups.

Coaching Notes:

  1. Do not move the weight by hyperextending your lower back and flaring your ribcage, or excessively shrugging.
  2. Once you hit your full range (a range where you are able to maintain proper form), “row” the barbell back in to your body. Your ability to control the movement of your shoulder blades plays a big role in your ability to perform this exercise.
  3. Do not keep your shoulder blades pinned. They are meant to move.As you press the weight they should move away from your spine (protract). As the weight is returning towards your body, your shoulder blades should perform the reverse movement and should move in towards your spine (retract).
  4. Make this exercise easier by using less weight. Make this exercise more challenging by using more weight, by adding band resistance, or by performing negative reps and taking 3-5 seconds to perform the eccentric component of the movement.

#3 Glute Bridges + Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Hold

While this exercise strengthens the glutes, develops lumbo-pelvic stability, and improves grip strength, my main objective for performing this exercise is to improve shoulder and scapular stability.

Coaching Notes:

  1. Extend your hips by squeezing your glutes, NOT by arching your lower back and flaring your ribcage. This is extremely important. When you are performing 100% the movements, your body should move as a single unit, not in segments.
  2. In the top position, your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to knees.
  3. For the duration of the exercise, your arms and kettlebells should remain in a vertical position, and over your armpits.
  4. Make this exercise easier by using lighter kettlebells. Make this exercise more challenging by using heavier kettlebells, or by adding band resistance above your knees.

#4 Prone Single Arm Pallof Presses

This unique Pallof press variation develops shoulder and scapular controlled mobility on the side that is pressing (and stability on the side that is planted), and lumbo-pelvic stability. You do not need to use a lot of resistance for the exercise to be effective and challenging.

I also included a more advanced variation at the end where I am on my hand (instead of my forearm).

Coaching Notes:

  1. Before each rep, take a deep breath in (360 degrees of air around the spine, brace your core (360 degree brace), tuck your ribs towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), and squeeze your glutes. This will help stabilize your hips and spine.
  2. Steadily exhale as you are performing the pressing movement. When you press, your arm should remain in line with your armpit.
  3. For the duration of the exercise, your body should remain in a straight line from your head to heels. Do not allow your lower back to hyperextend, ribcage to flare, torso or hips to rotate, or weight to shift from foot to foot. This is reflective of a lack of lumbo-pelvic stability.
  4. Do not mindlessly hang out on the shoulder on the planted side. Press your body away from the floor and protract your shoulder blade (move it away from the spine). Also, pretend you are trying to pull the elbow of your non-working arm down towards your feet.
  5. Make this exercise easier by using a band with less tension. Make this exercise more challenging by using a band with more tension.

#5 Multi-Directional Taps For Scapula From A Bear Crawl Position, And With Feet On Roller

This exercise develops shoulder and scapular controlled mobility on the side that is moving (and stability on the side that is planted), and lumbo-pelvic stability. With this exercise, you do not need to use a lot of resistance for the exercise to be effective and challenging.

I added in the roller as this slightly unstable object makes the exercise more difficult, and makes “cheating” extremely tough, but you do not need to use the roller.

Video Tutorial:

Coaching Notes:

  1. If you are performing this exercise correctly, the muscles in your mid and upper back, NOT your arm, should be doing the majority of the work. Many people make the mistake of using their arm to perform this exercise. The majority of the movement should be occurring due to the controlled movement of your shoulder blade.
  2. Do not keep your shoulder blade pinned. It is meant to move. Do not mindlessly hang out on the shoulder on the planted side. Press your body away from the floor and protract your shoulder blade (move it away from the spine). As for the moving arm, 100% of the movement should be executed with pristine control.
  3. Aside from your moving arm, the rest of your body should remain in a fixed position. Do not allow your lower back to hyperextend, ribcage to flare, torso or hips to rotate, hips to pike or collapse, or weight to shift from foot to foot. This is reflective of a lack of lumbo-pelvic stability.
  4. Make this exercise easier by using a band with less tension.Make this exercise more challenging by using a band with more tension.

#6 Tall Kneeling Overhead Barbell Holds + Hanging Kettlebells

This exercise develops shoulder and scapular stability (your shoulders and scapulae are in a fixed position), lumbo-pelvic stability, and to some extent, grip strength. The very unstable nature of the hanging kettlebells makes this exercise extremely challenging, making it an awesome exercise for improving shoulder health.

Coaching Notes:

  1. Set up the barbell so it is in a squat rack and at an overhead level so you don’t need to press the barbell into the starting position (this will usually allow you to use more resistance); or you can press the barbell into the starting position. If you do so, make sure you use proper pressing form.
  2. Do not move the weight overhead by hyperextending your lower back, flaring your ribcage, or excessively shrugging.
  3. For the duration of the exercise, your head, torso and hips should remain in a stacked position, and your pelvis should remain level. Do not allow your lower back to hyperextend, or ribcage to flare. This is reflective of a lack of lumbo-pelvic stability.
  4. Make this exercise easier by using lighter kettlebells, by using thicker and shorter bands, or by using just the barbell. Make this exercise more challenging by using heavier kettlebells, or by using thinner and longer bands.

RELATED: “The Complete Female Pull Up Makeover”

About The Author

Meghan Callaway is a prominent personal trainer in Western Canada with over 15 years of training experience coaching in the trenches.  Growing up as a multi-sport athlete, Meghan took her athletic prowess to the University of British Columbia and completed her degree in Human Kinetics.

Meghan is also the creator of “The Ultimate Pullup Program” designed specifically to help people reach their true pull up potential.

6 PHASES OF THE PERFECT DYNAMIC WARM UP

Perform at maximum capacity while keeping yourself injury-free. Completely FREE for you to download.
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4 Comments

  1. Andrew October 22, 2018 at 6:39 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the trouble you guys went for producing this post. The attention to detail is obvious.

  2. Phil Costello October 23, 2018 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    That was excellent. Well done.

  3. Danny Ladvick October 31, 2018 at 2:19 am - Reply

    Very informative article but I´m missing rep and set scheme: How many sets, how many reps? Should this be done as a circuit or instead of a normal lifting program? That are the infos I´m missing.

    • Miso November 1, 2018 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      Same here 🙂 Also would like to know reps, sets, frequency, etc 🙂

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6 PHASES OF THE PERFECT DYNAMIC WARM UP

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