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3 Weeks To Bulletproof Shoulders

March 2, 2016 | 0 Comments
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Regardless of whether you are a performance-based athlete on the field of play, a bodybuilder preparing for the stage, or a Crossfitter crushing daily WODs, the single most injury prone and susceptible joint in the human body is the shoulder.

More than 40% of all resistance training injuries involve the shoulder in some capacity and what many athletes would often consider a small ‘niggling’ injury can quickly become far more serious and detrimental to training, muscle growth and athletic performance.

Avoiding exercises that cause pain or ‘don’t feel right’ is the band-aid approach to shoulder injury prevention and all it takes is one bench press challenge or slight movement outside of your comfort zone to cause some serious long-term damage.

If you are sick and tired of not being able to overhead press without pain, lack the mobility for more complex Crossfit movements, or simply want to improve the quality of your shoulder health then our 3 week plan to bulletproof shoulders is for you!

This shoulder injury prevention system focuses on shoulder stability and mobility, whilst also improving the quality of surrounding muscle tissue and developing muscular endurance.

Best of all, it only takes between 15 – 20 minutes three times per week, so it can easily be integrated into any training program. In fact, the use of equipment is so minimal it truly can be performed anytime and anywhere, all it takes is your dedication.

Let’s GO!

The Prescription

Using the exercises described below, perform between 15-20 minutes of continuous cycling between movements using the prescribed rep-ranges. For optimal shoulder health, perform this system at least 3 times per week either as part of your warm-up routine or in a separate split session.

Exercise 1: PVC Pipe Shoulder Pass-Throughs. Perform 15 reps.

Exercise 2: Push Up Shoulder Taps. Perform 8-10 reps per arm.

Exercise 3: Single Arm KB Upright Row. Perform 8-10 reps per arm.

Exercise 4: Self Lacrosse Ball Pec Massage. Perform for 60 seconds per side.

PVC Pipe Shoulder Pass Throughs

The PVC Pipe Shoulder Pass Through is a fantastic training tool for both mobility/flexibility assessment and as part of a dynamic shoulder warm-up routine. It simply tests the integrity of the shoulder joint, its associated musculature, and the degree of flexibility in an athlete by putting the shoulder through complete external and internal rotation.

Always aim to keep your hands as close as possible without bending your elbows. Make the most of the movement by keeping a ‘full’ grip on the PVC pipe at all times; as the PVC pipe passes overhead and behind your body, this will become more difficult, but keep persisting.

To perform the movement follow the sequential steps below:

  1. Using a PVC pipe or broom-stick, set your feet at shoulder width.
  2. Place the PVC pipe at waist height using an overhand (palms facing rear) grip.
  3. Take as wide a grip as needed to keep your arms locked out.
  4. Gradually bring the PVC pipe past eye-level, overhead and down to your lower back.
  5. Return the PVC pipe to your waist, passing it back overhead with control.
  6. Perform 15 total reps.

Push Up Shoulder Taps

Although the Push Up Shoulder Tap seems like a very simple progression of the traditional pushup, it is an extremely useful exercise for maintaining shoulder integrity and strength that carries over into any overhead movement.

Because the Push Up Shoulder Tap is considered a closed kinetic chain exercise (a movement performed where with the hands (or feet) are fixed in space, usually against the floor or wall) it produces far fewer shearing-forces than isolated movements like an overhead dumbbell or barbell pressing, but provides substantially more joint stability. Often Crossfit athletes will substitute open chain overhead pressing for handstand push ups to help relieve stress on their joints whilst still maintaining or increasing their relative overhead stress.

To perform the movement follow the sequential steps below:

  1. Set yourself in a push-up position with feet slightly wider apart than usual.
  2. Ensure your core/midline is braced, and your hips and shoulders are aligned.
  3. Keeping your head neutral, lift one arm off the ground and tap the opposite shoulder, holding for 2 seconds.
  4. Bring the arm back down to the ground, then repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Perform 8-10 reps per arm (16-20 total reps).

Single Arm Kettlebell Upright Row

Apart from locking-out a barbell overhead, the upright row is the second most troublesome shoulder movement for bodybuilders. Similarly, it also plays a part in Olympic weightlifting movements during the ‘turn-over’ of the barbell in the clean and snatch. Mechanically, upright rows place the shoulder in internal rotation (shoulder forward) and horizontal abduction (raising away from the body) which can cause risk of impingement, particularly when your wrists are ‘set’ and ‘cocked’ during the barbell variation.

The Single Arm Kettlebell Upright Row is a fantastic prehab exercise to safely build strength and appropriate shoulder activation for any upright row variation. Because the Kettlebell Upright Row is an isolateral movement, the wrist and shoulder can more freely glide in a natural manner which helps to keep the integrity of the shoulder girdle.

The Single Arm Kettlebell Upright Row can be a very foreign and often ‘sticky’ movement for most people when starting out, so we recommend using a very light kettlebell (4-8kg) to begin with, keeping the reps slightly higher if required. As you progress every 2-3 weeks and become more comfortable with the movement add an additional 1-2kg as you see fit.

To perform the movement follow the sequential steps below:

  1. Begin standing in an upright position with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Hold a kettlebell at waist height in one hand using an overhand grip.
  3. Keeping your glutes tight, pull the kettlebell upwards towards your shoulder making contact with your body throughout the movement.
  4. Pull to a comfortable position at either chest or shoulder height, then return to your waist.
  5. Perform 8-10 reps with one arm, then repeat on the opposite side.

Self Lacrosse Ball Pec Massage

The pec minor (sometimes described as the outer pec) is often a culprit when it comes to shoulder pain and dysfunction. Commonly the pec minor becomes very tight and shortened when athletes engage in lots of pressing movements (bench press, military press) and have poor posture with rounded shoulders. This shortening of the pec minor essentially pulls the shoulder blade forward into a very poor and unstable position.

A lacrosse ball (or any hard surface ball) is a fantastic tool for breaking up tight tissue and muscle adhesions that have built up from years of bench pressing and poor posture. Simply place the ball in the position of the pec minor and with your opposite arm massage the area and apply pressure to the tissue. This is very much the ‘entry-level’ technique; it should be the goal to gradually work towards positioning the lacrosse ball against the floor or doorway so you can use your entire bodyweight to break-up the muscle tissue.

This area can be extremely painful for those with extreme tightness, so if you find a lacrosse ball is too harsh, begin with a tennis ball and gradually work your way up.

To perform the movement follow the sequential steps below:

  1. Place a lacrosse ball against the floor or on a wall.
  2. Gently lean your chest into the lacrosse ball, particularly focusing on the outer chest area.
  3. Roll the length of your pec, holding any position that requires ‘release’.
  4. For added release rotate your shoulder internally or externally as required.
  5. Perform 60 seconds of release on one side, then repeat on the opposite pec.

There you have it! By sticking to this simple yet effective shoulder health program, all of those minor annoyances during bench pressing and overhead movements will gradually begin to subside.

No doubt your range of motion, quality of lifting and overall function of your shoulder will improve dramatically, allowing you to train pain-free for years to come.

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