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.

Stop the sloppy burpee

Burpees are renowned as the universal love-hate exercise. They provide an effective full-body conditioning workout and, if done correctly, they'll deliver results.

They also suck.

Anyone who's in the midst of a burpee workout knows that flushed, breathless feeling when you think there's no way you can keep going. And you also know the feeling of absolute exhilaration when somehow, some way you were able to finish. 

But too often, somehow, some way becomes "by any means necessary" -- including lazy, awful movement patterns.

Movement faults in the burpee

The problem I have with burpees is not with the exercise itself, but rather with those doing it. There are two typical movement faults I see. Those who've trained with me for a while know the first one:

  • Landing with your feet too close together when you come up from the floor. This puts you up on your toes with your knees in a compromised position. The long-term solution to this fault is to work on expanding your hamstring range-of-motion, hip function and core stability (with one of our go-to corrective exercises, Active Leg Lowering.) In the meantime, try landing with your feet wider, so you can land flat-footed with your knees in a safe position -- allowing you to absorb and generate force more efficiently. And ...
  • Finishing the burpee with a jump that reinforces sloppy, vulnerable shoulder position.

Whenever your arms are extended overhead, your shoulders should be in a stable, externally rotated position: armpits forward, elbows locked out, shoulder girdles anchored down. This is true when you're doing a barbell movement, finishing an overhead kettlebell swing ... and yes, when you finish a burpee repetition.

Fix your shoulders, fix your burpee

Friends don't let friends raise their arms overhead with armpits down and elbows bent and angled outward. Reinforcing this unstable position with no weight overhead will only train your shoulders to misbehave when loading is involved.

If this is you -- or if you think this might be you -- check out this post and video from my friend Kelly Starrett on how to spot it and how to fix it. Functional movement doesn't only apply to certain movements; it's something we should strive for and practice all the time.

Would you like to learn more about how we incorporate  the Functional Movement Screen and FMS corrective exercises into our program? Let us know how we can help.