Sunday, November 22, 2009

Taking Care of Your Shoulders

I am a huge advocate of weight training for health and strength, not to mention the mental health benefits of regular exercise and the self-esteem benefits of seeing our bodies become stronger and leaner.

But as anyone who has been lifting weights for any length of time can tell you, eventually nearly everyone will develop shoulder pain at some point. I have had my share, despite doing everything I know to prevent injuries.

With this in mind, maybe I can offer you all some information that may help you prevent your own injuries. Most importantly, here is some info from Eric Cressey, an expert in prevention and rehab.

As many of you know, Mike Reinold and I put on a seminar that was “everything shoulder” this past Sunday at Cressey Performance. The event sold out within 36 hours back when we first announced it in early October, and we had strength and conditioning and rehabilitation specialists come from the likes of Canada, Texas, and the Midwest on only a month’s notice. Our goal was to keep the seminar more intimate to allow for more speaker-attendee interaction, Q&A, and easy viewing - as we also recorded the event on DVD.

While production won’t be complete until December at the earliest, I thought I’d give my loyal readers a little taste of some of what was discussed on Sunday. Our primary goals were to introduce some current concepts in evaluation of both symptomatic and asymptomatic populations as well as ways to treat/train them during and after injury. Above all else, we wanted to show how rehabilitation specialists and strength and conditioning specialists could work hand-in-hand to improve outcomes - but that this successful interaction hinged on whether all parties involved were willing to commit to learning about how the shoulder functions.

You can call this my “Random Thoughts” for the week:

1.The side-lying external rotation (SLER) has the highest EMG of any rotator cuff exercise, and the adducted position is the safest position for most “testy” shoulders. So, if you have to pick one cuff exercise to get you a safety and a great return on investment, roll with the SLER:

2. Simply providing a small amount of “propping” to put the humerus in a slightly more abducted position actually increases EMG of the posterior rotator cuff muscles by 23%.

3. Shoulder evaluations rarely work completely independently of one another. For example, poor thoracic spine mobility directly impacts function of the scapula and, in turn, range of motion at the glenohumeral joint. So, rather than hanging your hat on 1-2 assessments, you need a barrage of assessments that cover glenohumeral range-of-motion, scapular stability/positioning, thoracic spine mobility, breathing patterns, and forward head posture. Then, once you’ve got all your information, you can look at each test as one piece in an individualized puzzle.

4. There are a ton of superior labrum anterior-posterior (SLAP) tests out there. It’s because none of them are particularly great - but the better ones out there simulate the injury mechanism (e.g. pronated load and resisted supnation external rotation tests for overhead throwing athletes).

Read the whole article.

This article comes from the Staley Training Systems site, offering the best body weight exercise from shoulder strength.

Handstand Push-Ups - The BEST Shoulder Exercise You Can Do

By Nick Nilsson
Author: Fitness-eBooks
Creator: Powerful Training Secrets

The Handstand Push-Up is, in my opinion, THE single most effective shoulder exercise you can do. The mechanics are exactly like a regular shoulder press but, since you're moving your bodyweight through space, you active the shoulder muscle fibers far more.

For myself, shoulders have always been my weakest link. I can't do much on the barbell press without having shoulder pain. Dumbells are better but I lose strength in that lift quickly if I don't keep up with it.

Then I tried Handstand Push-Ups. The first few times I did them, I had a spotter, grab my legs and hold me up. If you're not experienced with kicking up into a handstand, you may want to try that.

This is a TOUGH exercise, just fyi. You'll have to have strong shoulders at the outset to be able to even perform one rep. But the payoff is HUGE. It'll not only build ridiculous shoulder strength, it'll develop balance and athleticism at the same time.

So here's the handstand push-up and how to do it...

Do a handstand beside a wall so that your feet are in contact with it (see the Kick Up section below). Your hands will be a little wider than shoulder width. Lower yourself until your head touches the ground then push up.

The Kick Up:

Place your hands about 3 inches away from the wall. Your starting position will be similar to a sprinter's at the start of the race. The leg you will push up with is the one that is furthest back.

Bounce down a little then explode your legs up. I like to do it with split legs, catching the wall with the bottom of one foot to slow things down without smacking my heels. Once you're up, straighten your legs - that's the top position!

The kick up requires practice to be able to do efficiently and without smacking your heels against the wall. Wear shoes when practicing! Practice it a few times to get the hang of it. You want to do it on a mat or other padded surface the first few times.

Ensure you keep your elbows locked out or very close to it, and your elbows are stiff. This will prevent you from crashing down on your head, especially the more sets you do (even more so with negative reps). Practice with both feet to see which feels more comfortable. If you get more comfortable with one, it is still not a bad idea to practice with the other one as well.

Now, once you're in the top position, it's a simple (yeah, simple!) matter of doing the push-up.

Lower your head to the floor then push yourself directly back up.

Move your mouse on an off this picture below to see it in action.

Once you've done as many reps as you can, it's time to come back down.

The way down is just the opposite from the kick-up. My preference is again, split up the legs so that you're basically dropping one leg down, then the other. This helps me keep balance and cushion the landing. Once the first foot is down, the other is already on the way. The video shows this quite well.


1. To focus on the delts more, turn your hands inward somewhat so that your fingers are pointing at each other a little (not too much).

2. A spotter can be used to hold your body upright and to help pull you up if you need it. If you want to add resistance, get a spotter to push down on your legs.

3. A great way to improve your pushing power is to do them with a bottom-stop. At the bottom of each rep, let your body weight rest mostly on your head, releasing much of the tension off your shoulders. This will eliminate any elastic force you may have in your muscles. This has the added effect of building up your neck muscles. At that point, develop tension in the delts then push up explosively.

4. Splay your fingers out as wide as possible. This will help with controlling your motion. It will also improve hand strength. Don't have your fingers flat on the floor, however. Keep them bent so that you can exert force. It will make your hands resemble a claw.

Read the rest of the article.

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