Is there anyone who hasn’t at some point in their training had a shoulder issue?
If you said no, it’s probably because you’re either brand new to training and yet to experience it or you’re simply lying. I’d go with the latter.
Pretty much every hard charging individual, regardless of your particular sport, will have experienced some injury or other in the shoulder.
The causes are many. It may be sports specific, it may be overuse, it may be structural imbalance, you just may not have tapped in time when your mate slammed on that Omoplata.
If you have a current issue, I strongly suggest you get out to get it checked over by a physio who is involved in training and works with athletes. Personally I head over to John Kelly who runs Dublin Therapy out of his home in Tallaght.
What I want to share with you today are a few exercises I like to give my guys. Bear in mind I have a lot of Martial Artists from a variety of arts, I have triathletes, rugby players and a whole truckload of office types that all train with me. The drills shown in the clips below have helped every ilk of athlete restore upper body function and unwind many of their problems.
I’ll say now that by far the most common issue is an over tight chest and upper trap and under active mid back. these often results in a sunken chest, forward head posture and internally rotated shoulders. Not a good look, nor is it healthy.
While your sport may require this position (think of a triathlete on the bike or a BJJ guy fighting from the bottom) but as this posture takes root you will gradually loose power and become more prone to acute injury.
The first video shows three simple drills with a resistance band, these can be done any time, but especially in your warm ups. Try also doing some in between sets, especially during a pressing workout:
This second clip introduces the Indian Clubs.
Now, I don’t teach much of this but I have used them extensively on myself and have been experimenting with a few of my guys to see how well they respond to their use.
Lets just say, the results are excellent. The light clubs are a fantastic tool for increasing both mobility and structural integrity of the whole shoulder in one hit.
Usually we have to work mobility and integrity separately. We have several very popular drills that we use for strengthening and stabilising the rotator cuff muscles and activating the upper back. We very often do these immediately after a series of shoulder mobility drills for both the Gleno-humeral joint (where the arm sits into the shoulder) and the Scapular itself (which keeps the shoulder held together).
With the clubs we seem to tick all the boxes with only few movements and almost better results. Possibly the best success story is our Muay Thai coach, Dave “the Rasta” Gordon.
In his last fight before leaving Thailand he hit his opponent with such a powerful hook punch that he tore tendons under his scapular. He also knocked the man out and came home the champion, so there’s a silver lining to his story, but it put serious doubts on his future as a fighter and even on his beloved weight training.
Dave took to the Indian clubs with vigour and over time has managed to rebuild himself to the point where is able to now perform Dips and Chins, two things that he thought would be unavailable to him without surgery.
Myself, I use the clubs to warm up before any overhead work, especially if I’m working towards a kettlebell competition, which involves thousands of repetitions of overhead work each week. When I use the clubs my shoulders are indestructible, when I don’t they very quickly get tweaky.
As said, I’m no expert in these, so the drills I use are few. But they do work.
one rider I will put on the clubs, go light. Many recommend 1 or 2lb clubs, the ones I demo with are 2kg and we also have 4kg. The 4’s hardly ever get touched and may find the 2’s a little heavy.
Here’s the clip:
These drills will go a long way to keeping your shoulders healthy, but you still need to ensure you have a balanced training program and are working to redress postural habits enforced by outside factors such as your sport or your desk job.