The Cuban Shoulder Crisis

leonardo-da-vinci-anatomy-5441d185ac301You know how when you by a new car, all of a sudden it seems like everyone on the road is driving the same car?

Well this post feels a bit like that.

Since I injured my shoulder, it seems everyone I talk to has a shoulder issue of their own.

So expect a good few posts on the topic of the shoulder, shoulder health, shoulder rehabilitation, shoulder strength, chips of shoulders, cold shoulders, hard shoulder and any other shoulder related pun you can come up with.

I had a comment on a recent post (this one) where I’d mentioned rotator cuff training asking for specifics.

Truth be told, there are about 72 gazzilion rotator cuff drills that you can choose from, some are fairly common to see, others less so. Some work really, really well. Others less so.

This particular one I like.

It’s called a Cuban Rotation.

Here’s shoulder injury sufferer Mel using a very light stick loaded with some light weight (she now uses a barbell with added weight……) in a tall kneeling position:

Here’s a few pointers on getting the most out of the drill:

  • Think 90 degree angles at the elbow and shoulder
  • Start out light
  • No, lighter than that!
  • Inhale as you lift
  • Feel the shoulder blades move as the weight move, don’t focus on the weight.
  • Use less weight
  • Move slow and controlled

You may notice I encourage you to start light with the drill.
This is because going too heavy will make you muscle the lift rather than feel it.
Mel is using about 3kg in the video, that was filmed a few weeks ago and now she’s on 15kg, with room for more.

Why the kneeling position?

Kneeling, tall kneeling and half kneeling are powerful positions to train in.
They very often prevent you from cheating and using body English to muscle through the lift.
Not only that they help train the hip to fully extend, putting some length into the hip flexors while encouraging both the glutes and abs to fire as a team.

And that can’t be a bad thing.

When do you train the rotator cuff?

After your main upper body lifts or as an active rest between lower body lifts.

Now, this isn’t over.
There’ll be more shoulder magic coming at you in upcoming posts, so be sure to subscribe so you never miss a post.

Oh, you get this as a thank you:



Dave Hedges


How NOT to Kill Your Shoulders

The internet is a dark and dangerous place.

Since it became a thing, something we can access as easily and conveniently as drawing breath, the amount of information available to us has become astronomical.

This is cool as it means we can find answers to our questions more easily than ever before. We can take a class somewhere and then continue our studies via the internet. Often times we don’t even have to go somewhere, we can simply learn over the web!

On the flip side though, we’ve a shit load of information on the internet that’s not worth the paper it’s written on!

And one such article was posted recently.

It was T-Nation post talking about exercises that will trash your shoulder joint.

T-Nation is an awesome site, if you’ve never visited it, you certainly should.
But pick your authors, some are better than others.

But when one post is titled “3 Shoulder Killers to Avoid” and two of them are staples of the training I provide here, you have to look pretty closely at what is written and figure out what is really going on.


The three drills in question are:

The Kipping Pull Up

Dips on Rings

Battling Ropes.

With the Kipping Pull Up, I’m with the author, I’m absolutely not a fan of these and don’t see much point in doing them.
The argument for them (outside of CF competition) is work capacity. Fair enough, but for work capacity, why not use a less risky exercise?

Now the questionable parts:

Dips on Rings.

“Moreover, shoulder joints can easily be impinged during the performance of ring dips because the load is driving the humerus and AC joint together. Add to this an even slight lateral movement force and many serious injuries occur, often in the form of torn or damaged rotator cuffs.
As Rippetoe advises, “Do your shoulders a favor and do your dips on dip bars!”

This is ridiculous.
Any form of Dip can and if allowed, WILL close up the shoulder joint and place a great deal of stress on the anterior shoulder structures.
But only if performed poorly.
Doing dips on bars isn’t any safer than doing them on rings. In fact if properly coached as in the manner laid out in the video below, many find the rings more comfortable than the bars.
After all, the rings can move to better accommodate your body. My shoulders are asymmetric, many of my clients have shoulders that work better one side than the other, the rings accommodate this by allowing them to rotate into a better position.
As the body lowers and raises through the full range of motion, the hands should rotate creating a spiralling force as you lower and lift.
This is impossible on the bars, plus the bar width may simply not suit your shoulder structure at all!

Have a look at the video:

Trained in this manner and never allowing the anterior glide of the humerous, the dip on the rings will bulletproof you massively.
I have trained several lads to the point where they can load up with approx half their bodyweight for 2-3 reps.

Some of them had never done a pain free dip prior to training with me. Ever.


Battling Ropes.

“Many lifters and athletes come to me now with various shoulder issues, and almost always they’ve been utilizing battling ropes or the other two ridiculous exercises mentioned above. My task is to rehab them.”

Here’s a statistic one should take into consideration after reading the above paragraph:

100% of people who drink water die.

That statistic is perfectly accurate, but about as useful as the article.

Again, the only way in which the battling rope will fuck up you shoulder is if you’re only using your shoulder to create the power.
And if you’ve ever used a rope, you know that you’re arms burn out real fast unless you learn to generate the power from the ground up.

I use the ropes a lot with my guys. The BJJ and Muay Thai guys especially like (or hate……it’s kinda subjective!) training with the ropes, and both sports are notorious for shoulder injury.

Yet the guys that train with me suffer fewer shoulder problems than the guys that don’t.

The point I’m getting to here is two fold.

1: Don’t believe half of what you read on the internet. There are a handful of authors that are top drawer, but they are gold in the coal seam of shit writers looking for click throughs and traffic.

2: Technique, technique, technique!
I’m a stickler for good form. No one in my gym is allowed progress if they are doing so at the cost of good form.

If you want more good info, join me on the facebook where I share a bucket load of great articles

And if you want technical coaching, join me at Wild Geese by clicking here.


Dave Hedges



Range of Motion versus Common Sense

Range of Motion is a polarising topic.

I like polarising topics.

Polar - ising....

Polar – ising….

Usually there is actually a middle ground where common sense lies but the internet doesn’t like common sense.

I do.

That’s why the clients that come to me for training come to me in the first place. It’s also why they stay.

Not everyone stays, but then not everyone thinks common sense applies to them. They usually end up in a cycle of getting no where or getting injured.

Now, range of motion and common sense.

Let me tell an anecdote first.

A while ago I had a group of Fitness Instructors that were sent into me by a local “globogym” for some instruction on how to work and teach the kettlebell lifts.

During the course I’m going through the squat, as the kettlebell goblet squat is a fundamental movement as far as I’m concerned.

So, as these are “instructors” I ask them a lot of questions so that they actually come up with the correct answers by themselves, or at least as a group.
Yes, I know, I’m a mean teacher.

One question I asked was “How deep should a person squat?”

A young male, one of those 20 somethings who can’t seem to buy the correct size T-shirts (hint, a size or two up from the one you squeezed yourself into this morning!) supplied an answer with an enthusiastic, “Ass to the grass!”


As he was so certain in his answer, I thought I’d follow up to see if we can weed out a thought process behind the answer. So I asked, “Everyone? Always?”

He was said, “Yes”

I asked why. This caused some concern. I could feel the others wanting to protect their own against this big bully of an instructor.
His answer, “Because it’s the way to do it!”



polar bear facepalm

This is not critical thinking, this is NOT common sense. This is dogmatic bro-thinking, aka Bullshit.

How deep should a person squat?

As deep as is safe for that individual!

How deep should we go on any exercise?

As deep as is safe for that individual.

If that means squatting above parallel, so what?
If going deeper causes them to break form, how are they benefiting?

I’m a huge advocate of using full range of motion on every exercise, but I also understand that my range of motion is different to yours, which is different to the next guys.

I can squat ass to grass in my bare feet.
Not many of my clients can.

Many are unable to go full range in a Dip, or even a push up without the anterior shoulder coming under stress. So we don’t allow them go full range until they earn it by building the required strength and mobility.

But then lets look at a particular exercise that is largely considered to be the king of strength development.

The Deadlift.


Now, hands up who can tell me which joints go through their full range of motion during a deadlift?





Definitely not!


Shoulder (Glenohumeral)
Not even close.

You get the idea.

Yet people get ridiculously strong by training this lift that is only ever a partial range exercise.

What is full range of motion?

It is the range of motion your body has in it right now, today.
Proper training can increase this, but it will never increase if forced.

Don’t fall into the range of motion trap.

Fall into the common sense trap.


Dave Hedges

Holy shit! You killed me with two exercises!

“Holy shit! You killed me with two exercises!” said Andre Ramos Zavatini¬†after a very short sharp shock workout at Wg-Fit

Yup, you read that right, just two exercises.

And neither of them were burpees!

First an introduction.

Andre Ramos is a BJJ black belt, a Capoeira maestro and all round good bloke.
You can find him teaching BJJ out of Lionheart Gym on North Frederick St, Dublin.

Andre is an old friend of Wild Geese and when he needs someone to put him through his paces we’re the first people he calls.

Which is cool, people like Andre are a pleasure to work with. He brings a smile, enthusiasm and a strong work ethic to every session. If you tell him to dig deep, few will dig deeper.

So when he said he only had 15 minutes before he had to go, he was shocked at how much quality work he could do and how much of the body he could work with so few movements in such a short space of time.

What two movements?

1A: 1 Arm Push Up x 5L/R
1B: Farmers Walk x 30m
5 rounds

Thats it.

I’m a huge advocate of one arm push ups for fighters.
The force vectors involved are close to those of a punch, force travelling from one hand through to the opposing foot. This places a huge anti-rotational stress on the core musculature and teaches whole body stiffness.


The Farmers Walk trains everything else, especially if you load it up.

And why wouldn’t you?

Go back and forth with minimal rest and you get this strange urge to breathe heavy, you’re heart rate climbs every higher and you may find yourself leaking.

farmers walk

Sounds a lot like a cardio vascular effect.

Or a stroke…..

Training takes many forms.
The form is dependant on the function.
Define the function and build the training around that.

For Andre today, the function was maximum effect in minimal time, it was strength and work capacity.

Once this was established, the form became clear, big push, big carry, small break.

He knew all about it.

Short sharp shocks built from 2-4 exercises are possibly the best way to condition a fighter.
Not the only way, but definitely one of the best. That’s why they are a frequent go to for any of our fighters prepping for an event.


Dave Hedges


How to Train for Life

I have always been inspired by seeing older people getting out and killing it.

I hung around with older martial artists who were stills agile and strong.
Older runners who could still pass me on the road.
Lads in the gym with tendons and veins popping as they struggled against the iron.

It was being around people like this in my younger years that set me thinking.

Training is a marathon, it’s not a sprint.

Yes we have events along the way in which we have to step up for, but the rest of the time it’s about making small steps forwards.

sandow healthTraining is a lifetime pursuit. You don’t achieve a goal and stop. You get back in the saddle hunting down that next goal.

The best way I have found to so far to achieve this long term training, is not to fix on any specific method, and specific goal or any specific tool for any length of time.

Sure we can specialise for periods of time, but outside of those periods there is one simple goal we should follow if we intend to train for life.

What might that be?

It’s the first question I ask people to answer when they ask me for a training plan.

The question is simply:

“What do you suck at?”

When you can answer that, we know what to train.

Identify a weak point, train it till it’s a strength, then identify the next weak point, and so on.

In this manner you will become a well rounded human animal, fit and healthy for years to come.

You’ll figure out how to work around injuries, to avoid burnout and overuse injuries, how to keep it interesting.

If you can’t figure out what you suck at, give me shout, maybe I can help you.


Dave Hedges


Ask Dave: What do you think of German Volume Training?

So I’m on the way out the gym the other day when a young lad from the BJJ stops me to say hello.

hi there

Immediately I’m faced with a dilemma.

My missus needs me home so she can meet her cousins for a dinner date but this young fella just passed his personal trainer exams and has been bubbling with great questions ever since.

A dilemma I choose to deal with by taking time to chat with the lad while psyching myself up for a cycle home so fast that even Lance Armstrong would have to nod in appreciation!

His question was simple:

What do you think of German Volume Training?

And my answer, “it’s bang on if you’re looking to bulk up. Is that what your looking to do?”

His answer then was, “No, I want to get leaner”

Ah. then we have a problem.

German Volume Training (which from here on in will be called GVT) is fantastic. I’ve never used it, nor have I ever programmed it for anyone, but I know several bodybuilders that have made great gains on it.

The problem then is, what if you’re not a bodybuilder?

GVT is a targeted, intense mass building protocol. For a BJJ player, the problem with the program is two fold.

1: They compete in weight classes, so bulking is very often out of the question.

2: GVT is energy sapping and doesn’t leave a lot in the tank for a session on the mats later.

3: As a bonus, body building type practices don’t do a lot for your movement quality.

So what would be better?

For his goal of leaning out, the first thing to do is look at his diet. That’s where changes in bodyfat occur.

But for the gym, call me biased but there’s a great resource out there called “Fighting Back” that deals with the needs of a BJJ player in some detail and even includes specific warm ups and strength training options.

I hear the author is really, really good looking too……

Here’s a link (click on the image):

Click the image for more info

Click the image for more info

Other than that, I have used Jim Wendlers 5/3/1 with great success on a few of the BJJ lads, but again, there’s a point where they need to back away from the constant drive to lift more iron and instead look at movement quality, building strength outside of the saggital plane and building power at odd angles.
And for this a combination of tools is key.

Basic barbell lifts, kettlebell lifts, bodyweight drills, sandbags and sledgehammers all have their place.

But for that you’ll have to come see me!


Dave Hedges


Burn Bright, not Out

There are times that I wish I had a talent for writing poetic prose.

Because this post would work really well if I could wax lyrically around the phrase

“A candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long”

But that’s not really me. So Instead keep that phrase in your head and fill in the fancy stuff yourselves…..

The inspiration for this post came from a conversation yesterday in the gym, as so many of my posts are.

But it also follows a bit of a theme from the last few weeks.

Yesterday though I was working with one of my lads, a fella with a laundry list of injury that seems to scupper any attempt to return to any level of serious training.
He’s just coming back to training now after a serious lay off and is pretty much starting from scratch.

But he and I have both noticed something different about this time compared to his previous returns.

Scratch that, 2 things are different.

1: Anatomy in Motion. Damn this method is awesome! It is THE missing link between injury rehab / physio and high performance training. It is without a doubt the most beneficial training I’ve had in any of my careers!

2: (and the important part of this post) His attitude has changed.

No longer does this lad want it yesterday. He’s not chasing some dream that must be fulfilled now. Instead he’s showing patience, a calm understanding of where he’s at and holding onto a vague picture of where he ideally wants to be.

Now I know having a “vague” idea of the goal goes against just about every success guru’s teaching ever.
But sometimes it’s all we need.

I’m of the opinion that so many folk are getting so beaten up in training OR getting no where with their training at all because of the current trend of super-awesome-mega-insane-hardcore-elite-XXX-fusion-special forces-military bootcamp-insert buzzword here-training.

Have a goal we are told.

Now kill yourself until you achieve it.

But what about the bigger picture?

What about in 30years from now?

Would you like to be rolling around on the floor pretending to be a monster and chasing your grandkids around?

Or do you want to be on the waiting list for a hip replacement and surgery?

If we are candles, we want to burn bright enough to stand out, to inspire, to be awesome, but not so bright as to shorten our lifespan.

The fella that has inspired this post has finally figured this out. And while he’s desperate to get back into boxing, desperate to fight before age becomes a limiting factor, he has also figured out that first and foremost he needs to be healthy.

If this means putting the fight off for an extra 6 months, so be it.

If this means following a training program that to an outside viewer looks like nothing at all. Subtle movements, bodyweight exercises, not a violent movement or heavy weight in sight.
But he’s happy with this. He trusting in the process. He’s accepted that 1% better every day is a surer way to progress than do or die.

He’s enjoying the process, as boring as it maybe, because every day he hurts a little less, he can do a little more and he knows that soon the barbells will be brought out to play. Just not yet.

Enjoy the process, become attached to the process and before you know it your goals will be nothing but road signs that you pass on the journey.

Now, there are times we need to turn up the gas.
I’ve just put a handful of people through 8 weeks of serious graft, some for the Irish Kettlebell Sports National Championships and another for a full contact K-1 fight, all of whom compete this weekend.

But even still as we went there were times where we held back, times we pushed forwards. All in the name of building the flame to burn its brightest come competition day, but never burn out.

It’s process.

It never ends.

Train for life.


Dave Hedges

and don’t forget to download your copy of the Ultimate Guide to the Kettlebell Swing, just click the link, or the image below: