Shoulder Health: Being Cutesie Too Fast

One aspect of training athlete’s that should never go overlooked is the true importance of coaching.  Having a coaching intensive environment for clients and/or athletes goes a long way for engraining optimal movement patterns which teaches good technique which then increases performance and decreases the chance of injury.  Watching a athlete do an exercise and never saying anything to correct them is one thing we all as athletic development coaches, personal trainers, etc (myself included), in my opinion, need to constantly remind ourselves.  Granted, there are some athletes/clients who move awesome but these are few and far between.

If you are letting your client do this, WTF is wrong with you.

I honestly don’t know why I put this picture in, but it should get the point across of not getting cute with your training and hoping they do the right thing.  What is the right thing?  Making sure that all the basic movement patterns are done correctly first before moving onto corrective exercises.  I love corrective exercises, mobility drills, and all those things we can use as fillers to the main lifts which we do daily, but hammering away technique for basic pulling & pushing exercises is one awesome way to get results and reduce pain/injury.  For the purpose of this blogpost, I am talking about pulling exercises.  Many people because of the typical postural adaptaptions or meatheaditis/douchebaggery (benching day and night) are going to have problems with your typical pulling exercises like any row of any sort and these are the ones that may come to you with shoulder pain.  We know that with this population, that they generally bench too much, which promotes poor upward rotator function (lower trap, serratus anterior), and really poor upper back strength.  For one, doing exercises such as prone trap raises, scap wall slides, and forearm wall slides are friggin awesome to incorporate into programs but if they cannot even do a simple row correctly, you may be working up-hill.

Get the basics down first.  Exercises such as seated cable rows, TRX rows, Batwings (basically, an isometric hold in row position-Dan John), Cable Pulldowns (I like 1/2 kneeling position) work the low traps to a great extent even before you get to the other “cuter” exercises.  If all of these exercises are coached effectively and performed correctly by someone, the athlete will get both retraction and depression at the scapula which is what we are looking for in order to groove good motor patterns, increase scapular stability, and get a strong upper back.  All of which can help reduce injury and pain and look like a beast.

Always good videos by Mike Robertson on proper cueing

Good 1-Arm Cable Row Form by Tony Gentilcore

*Keep chest tall

*Pull  shoulder blade back & down (you’ll notice no shrugging)

1/2 Kneeling Cable Pulldown

Proper rowing patterns tend to be hideous and from working with athletes this past year (and as I continue to grow as a coach) we cannot stress the importance of hammering away at these patterns to keep our athletes healthy and strong.  Other ideas to consider with anterior shoulder pain are to…

*increased your pulling to pressing ratio from 2:1 or even 3:1  (for every pressing exercise, do 2-3 pulling exericses)

*work on T-spine mobility

*do soft-tissue work  (lacrosse ball=man’s best friend)


Don’t think that I am saying if you do these mobility or scapular stability exercises in conjuction with the primary exercises you are wrong.  Heck no.  Only that it may be easier to coach these drills because the athlete/client now has a better awareness of what you are looking for.  It may be food for thought to even add some of these activation drills in the warm-up.  More bang for your buck in the warm-up

Cuter but Awesome Exercises – Always keep upper traps “soft” and do not allow shrugging to happen

Scap Wall Slides

Forearm Wall Slides

Push-Up w Hand Switches








Categories: Injury Prevention, Strength Training

Tags: , , , , ,

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