5 Great Exercises for Strong and Resilient Shoulders - FITNESS PAIN FREE

5 Great Exercises for Strong and Resilient Shoulders

I’ve written a pretty ridiculous amount about shoulder health in the past. Today’s I’m sharing 5 of my favorite exercises for shoulder health.

When it comes to keeping our shoulders healthy in the gym one thing we really have to be cognizant of is watching the total volume of pressing we perform in a given training block. The majority of shoulder injuries I see in the gym are from overuse of pressing movements.

That being said, the solution is not just as easy as reducing pressing volume and incorporating more pulling exercises.

We still need to keep pressing movements at a high enough volume in order to progress over time. What that means is that we also have to be smart about just which pressing exercises we choose. One way I like to solve this problem is by adding in more pressing variations utilizing a tempo like this incline press shown below:

Utilizing a tempo is awesome for a variety of reasons:

  • Additional time under tension to help build extra muscle mass
  • Heavy slow loads are helpful for tendon health
  • Reduced speed and load reduces stress on the shoulder joint
  • BONUS: Pause in the bottom helps build what is typically the weakest portion of our press (by the chest) and helps build capacity in the weakest portion of our press where we’re often more prone to injury

Another excellent pressing variation that’s great for the shoulder is the push-up:

One of the reasons why I like push-ups so much is because they allow the shoulder blade to move freely. When we bench press we put some much emphasis on limiting shoulder blade motion by pinning the shoulder blades down on the bench.

Now, this is beneficial for a bigger press (creates a stable platform, brings chest closer to the bar to limit range of motion) but doesn’t allow much shoulder blade motion. Utilizing a pushup allows us to move normally through the shoulder joint helping to strengthen often neglected musculature and promoting a well rounded shoulder.

From a programming perspective, if our goal is a bigger bench press we’ll have to eventually increase total bench volume and intensity. With this often comes more risk of injury. For this reason I like to program movements like this early in a training phase to prepare the shoulder for the demands of increased bench volume and intensity in later phases.

Lastly, we know from our medical literature that the shoulder is largely the most often injured joint in the gym (powerlifting, bodybuilding, olympic lifting, CrossFit TM) along with the knee and lower back. For this reason I think we need some strategies to improve the ability of the shoulder to handle stress. I love basic rotator cuff and scapular strengthening exercises to accomplish this:

I like these exercises for several reasons:

  • They’re generally very low stress on the shoulder
  • They’ve been shown to have high EMG of the rotator cuff muscles, muscles that tend to breakdown over time with training
  • They help to build shoulder capacity

Want to see how we program movements like these into a comprehensive training program? Sign up for Champion STRONGER open for enrollment January 7th!

Click HERE to Sign Up!

Be Smart With Your Shoulder Training!

Dan Pope DPT, OCS, CSCS

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