10 Minutes to Healthy Shoulders

  • These two ten minute workouts will help stabilize your shoulders, increase your grip strength, and strengthen your core.

  • If you sit in front of a computer for a living then you need to do these workouts.

  • If you do CrossFit then you need to do these exercises.

Shoulder injuries are plaguing the sport of fitness and much of the general population. Young, old, the fit, the unfit–no one can seem to escape shoulder issues. And whether it’s a basic mobility problem or wear and tear on the joints, these ten-minute workouts can reduce your chance of a potential shoulder blowout.

If you sit in front of a computer all day…

Imagine you are sitting at a computer right now, now put your hands in the normal typing position, and notice how your shoulders are rolled forward.  Now imagine you do this for 8 hours a day. Eventually, you will lose the ability to rotate outwards.

Plain and simple, head forward with shoulders hunched is going to lead to shoulder impingement.

If this is you buy a therapy band to pull apart throughout the day.  Also there are plenty of spinal arrangement tips out there.
If this is you, buy a therapy band to do pull-aparts throughout the day.
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Shoot for 100 a day. Think about keeping your shoulders as far away from your ears as possible and pinch your shoulder blades together on each rep.

The band is great and a must for all office folks but keep reading; the workouts below will be life savers.

If you are a CrossFitter…

I am not a CrossFitter but I live with two CrossFitters and I am surrounded by everything that is CrossFit so I know a lot about the sport.  And I know plenty about physiology to realize there are a lot of potential dangers for the shoulder.  Next time you are in the gym, watch an athlete do toes-to-bar and think about what that is doing to the shoulder.  Here is an interesting article looking at the kipping effect on the shoulder joint.

But kipping is not the only culprit in CrossFit.  In fact many CrossFit exercises are quite demanding on the shoulder. Imagine this three-day WOD scenario:

Monday’s WOD:

Five rounds of: 20 Pull-ups, 30 Kettlebell swings 53/35lb, 40 Double-Unders

Tuesday’s WOD:

12 Minute AMRAP: 10 Toes to bar, 10 Power snatch   75/45lb, 10 Wall balls, 20/14lb ball

Wednesday’s WOD:

5-5-5-5-5 Strict Press, 3-3-3-3-3 Push Press, 1-1-1-1-1 Push Jerk

At first glance it looks like Wednesday is the day your shoulders will be put to work.  But my guess is you will kip those pull-ups on Monday and anyone who has ever done double-unders with a shoulder injury will tell you it too is an exercise that taxes the shoulders.  Then Tuesday you do nothing but shoulder work.  Wednesday rolls around and damn I think I hurt my shoulder? The shoulder is not built to withstand that much repetition. In fact, I have talked to long time lifters who only do shoulder work every other week.  There is a reason why SLAP tears seem to be one of the most frequent CrossFit injuries.

Fortunately there are also a lot of very smart people in CrossFit -- LISTEN to the mobility folks!

These three WODs were actual programmed workouts…in that order! And if you think this is just poor programming and it would never happen in your gym, just think about all the other scenarios of shoulder strain: ground to overhead, handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, ring dips…

I have actually seen very similar programming on the CrossFit main site — arguably worse.

Internal Rotation Problems

Stand in front of the mirror with your hands at your sides in what feels like a natural position.

Slight to moderate internal rotation of the shoulders
Slight to moderate internal rotation of the shoulders

Can you see the backs of your hands in the mirror?   If so you likely have internal rotation issues.

When the shoulder internally rotates the body is in a weak and vulnerable position.  This poor positioning equals poor capacity to generate stability in the shoulder joint.  Trying to do difficult movements — overhead press, snatch, HSPUs, etc… from a weak position will not only hurt your performance but it will eventually lead to injury.

So what can you do?

Before I discuss the exercises that will build you some rock solid shoulders, here is a great video that will help you to improve your shoulder health.

Kelly Starret’s Favorite Shoulder Fix

If you are unfamiliar with Kelly Starret, he is a guru in the world of mobility and stability.  The Supple Leopard and Mobilitywod.com, both Starret creations, are together saving crossfitters all over the country.  If Starret says it, you should listen. So how does Starret recommend we should fix the number one problem plaguing the sport of fitness?

Fixing Internal Rotation will require two things = Voodoo Floss Band (which you can pick up at rogue by clicking the banner below) AND an olympic bar OR a super friend.  Watch the video below and fix that internal rotation!

Shop Now Rogue Fitness

Shoulder Stability

Now that you are on your way to solving your internal rotation issues, here are the exercises that will build those rock solid shoulders:

The Thoracic Bridge by Max Shank (reminds me of my jiu-jitsu days)

Add this mobility exercise into your work day and you’ll immediately feel the benefit in your hips, shoulders, and back. The first time I did it, I cracked my own back and immediately felt my posture improve. But what makes it particularly useful is that you don’t need any equipment or special gear. All you need is some open space and a willingness to get in a strange position for 30 seconds. — James Clear

Walking Plank (there are several varieties of the plank that will help build those stable shoulders):

Bottoms Up Walk

Recently, I discovered the Bottoms Up Walk and Bottoms Up Press and I love them both.  They are amazing grip, shoulder, and core exercises.  You will likely need to start with a pretty light bell — both exercises will be humbling.

Bottoms Up Press

Turkish Get Up

Kettlebell Wrist Twists

I learned this great shoulder stability exercise while in physical therapy for bicep tendinitis.

The Workouts

If you are looking to build stability in your shoulders then I recommend alternating these workouts four days a week.

Sample:

Monday = Workout A

Tuesday = Workout B

Thursday = Workout A

Saturday = Workout B

If you are a crossfitter and your shoulders are already taxed, then plan these exercises around days when you can recover the following day.

Workout A:

Kettlebell wrist twists from Turkish position 3 x 15 each arm

Bottoms up presses 3 x 10 each arm

Thoracic Bridge for 1-2 minutes

Workout B:

Turkish-get-ups 3 minutes alternating sides

Bottoms up walk 5 x 20 feet each arm

Walking plank for 1-2 minutes

Get started today on these 10 minute workouts and save those shoulders!

Comments

  1. eatsandexercisebyamber says

    Erik, this is an AWESOME post. As someone who suffers from shoulder issues, this couldn’t be more perfect! You are SO knowledgable in so many versatile topics, wish I could have you in my pocket like a personal go to guru for all my health and fitness questions! I shared this on my facebook, twitter, and pinned it! So beneficial for ALL types of people!

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Amber thank you so much for your kind words — “wish I could have you in my pocket like a personal go to guru…” — maybe I can make an app for that ;)

      And thanks for sharing on all those social medias!!!

      My sister is a PTA and a few months ago several of us were doing shoulder mobility tests for her, athletes and non-athletes, and I was the only one who did not have a problem with impingement (which is pretty crazy that I tested the best because I have a history of shoulder issues dating back to several dislocations during my rugby days so it just goes to show how bad peoples shoulders really are). Everyday people who thought their shoulders were fine had tight impingement related issues.

  2. says

    Hey Amber! I’m so glad this might help you out…I was just getting ready to make sure you saw this! I need to go back into facebook and reply more to your calf issue but I wanted to do more research for you. I have UBER tight calves too…they’ll cramp up when I run, squat, pull a sled, jump, you name it. Maybe Erik’s next “fix-it” post should be on calves–haha. Honestly I hope I get all that I need when I go to Starret’s Mobility Cert in NY next month…I heard it’s torturous for non-flexible people like myself. I’m ready for the pain though..I need a crap-ton of issues fixed!!

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Steph, I think this is still related to your feet issues — golf ball massage those feet before you squat, run, etc…there could be other biomechanical issues causing the problem but I would start with the feet.

      • Stephanie Walker says

        I agree that I should roll out my feet before jumping, bouncing, running, etc. I also think I should wear my vibrams more than I do. BUT, I still think it’s rather weird that my calves STAY KNOTTED up no matter what I do. Jeremy (my PT) said it feels like there are wooden boards inside my calves. It’s hard for me to believe that is just a foot issue??? Maybe Starret will have advice when I go to the mobility cert.