shoulder health

What's the point of fitness?

The whole point of lifting weights is to get stronger, right? Perpetually lift heavier weights, more reps, at higher intensity.

Right?

Wrong.

The whole point of working out is to constantly push yourself past your limits and walk out of the gym feeling like you got hit by a truck, right? That's how you know you got a great workout. As you collapse in a pool of sweat, unable to construct a sentence or muster a coherent thought, your trainer smiles and says, "You crushed it today."

Did YOU crush IT, or did the TRAINER crush YOU?

This is where a lot of people go wrong with fitness. The whole Spartan, Tough Mudder and American Ninja Warrior mentality has permeated the fitness industry, to the point where people who are just trying to be healthier and look/feel a little better have been duped into thinking the only path to those goals is pain.

What's old is new again, and the "no pain, no gain" mantra from the '80s has infiltrated the fitness world and people are buying into it all over again.

Don't be duped.

Remember this: The first priority of a fitness program is to prevent pain and injury so you can continue exercising as long as you want to -- in theory, for the rest of your life. That's it. Period. Dr. John Rusin covers this topic thoroughly in this post, "How to Lift Forever: The Best Movements for Long-Term, Pain-Free Gains."

If your fitness program doesn't include the following components, it's time to look for a new fitness program:

-- Corrective Exercise: How does it make sense to load hundreds of pounds on your back if you have hip impingement, a collapsed arch or weak external hip rotators? Fix the movement pattern first before loading it.

-- Shoulder Care: It puzzles me why people think it's a good idea to throw and catch heavy weights overhead without taking the time to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder girdle. Maybe Wall Slides or Face Pulls don't get a lot of views on Instagram, but they will help keep you in the gym training instead of inside an MRI tube.

-- Unilateral Exercises: If you have right-left imbalances (which most people do), what do you think the outcome will be if you only push, pull, squat or hinge bilaterally? (Hint: Repeating a dysfunctional movement pattern will only lead to more dysfunction, and ultimately, pain and injury.) Improve and reprogram movement patterns in a single-leg, single-arm fashion before going for that next PR. Here's one of our favorites, the Rear-Leg Elevated or Bulgarian Split Squat (which we're doing in our Small-Group Training sessions today, actually.)

-- Core Exercises: And by this, I don't mean hundreds of sit-ups, v-ups and side-bends. I mean real core exercises that train the anti-rotation and anti-flexion functions of the core pillar. One of the most underrated core and hip stability exercises is as old and simple as it gets: the Glute Bridge. (Note: Only attempt a loaded glute bridge after you've mastered and progressed the unloaded version, including the Banded Glute Bridge.)

-- Loaded Carries: Speaking of old, underrated core exercises, it doesn't get much better than loaded carries. They're essential to developing neuromuscular stability, core stiffness and pure strength. Omit them from your training program at your own peril.

-- Squats and Deadlifts: But bear in mind, these two foundational lifting patterns should not be executed with a barbell if the athlete lacks the joint mobility and core strength to perform them properly. And they need not be executed with a barbell to get a training effect. Here's one of my favorite squat variations, the Landmine Goblet Squat.

Try some of these mandatory exercises in your training program and let us know in the comments how they work for you. And if your training program doesn't include these fundamental components, find one that does. This way, you can accomplish the No. 1 goal of fitness: to stay pain- and injury-free so you can keep doing everything you enjoy for the rest of your life.

 

A simple plan to bullet-proof your shoulders

One of the most common setbacks for lifters and fitness enthusiasts is shoulder pain. Sadly, most trainers and gyms do not utilize a sensible, well-designed shoulder-care program. That's problem No. 1.

Problem No. 2 is that most people don't know what exercises to do (and which ones to avoid) when their shoulders get angry. And without a well-designed shoulder-care plan -- and an educated trainer to implement it -- lots of people get stuck in an endless pain loop that hinders their progress, or worse, leaves them too injured to train.

Fall is a time when lots of folks get excited about resuming their fitness program. So it's the perfect time to share this incredible resource from my friend Dr. John Rusin: The 20 Most Effective Exercises to Train Around Shoulder Pain.

Here are two of our favorite movements combined into one: the Banded Face-Pull + Pull-Apart Combo.

Here's another one of our go-to shoulder mobility drills, the Wall Slide With Liftoff.

At Max Velocity, we evaluate every client with a Functional Movement Screen so we can identify weaknesses and movement restrictions and provide a customized corrective exercise program. If you think this process is only for beginner or de-conditioned athletes, think again. Whether you're an advanced overhead lifter, Olympic weightlifter, throwing athlete or weekend warrior, shoulder health is of paramount importance to your success and pain-free training.

If you have movement dysfunction that's causing shoulder pain, it isn't going to go away on its own. And if you insist on lifting heavy and with high intensity without addressing the underlying problems, it's only a matter of time before you get hurt.

Try a few of these incredibly effective exercises and bullet-proof your shoulders before diving into your next overhead training session. Let us know in the comments how this approach works for you.