Addressing your shoulder pain could be as simple as adding these 3 exercises in your daily routine. Check out Dave Hedges top 3 exercise for shoulder pain. Dave is a master of injury prevention when it comes to exercise.
There’s a line I remember reading from a person who attended one of Pavel Tsatsoulines’ workshops. He asked the assembled crowd, “Put your hands up if you’ve had a shoulder injury… anyone who doesn’t put their hands up probably can’t!”
Back then I laughed at the quip. I like his humour. But there’s a lot of truth in the joke.
The shoulder is one of the most common injury sites in the body. In my gym, barely a day goes by that I’m not helping someone reset their shoulders, regain shoulder mobility or trying to figure out where their shoulder pain is coming from.
There are a multitude of possible reasons for shoulder pain, often working out why the pain is there can be a chicken and egg type situation.
Is the shoulder pain there because of their spinal alignment, or is that spinal alignment there because of the shoulder pain?
Is the elbow hurting because the shoulder is out of whack, or is the shoulder out of whack because the elbow hurts?
You get the idea.
What I’ll give you here are the three best “go to” drills that help most of the people most of the time.
Drill 1: Breathe Better
Breathing is a big deal. Don’t believe me? Try not breathing for the remainder of the day…
A joke, of course. Keep breathing, but let’s try and make that breath work better for you.
Watch Yourself Take a Breathe
Face a mirror, or get your phone out to video yourself. Now take in a big breath.
What moved first?
If you saw your shoulders lift, congratulations! You are in the company of the vast majority of adults that are in dire need of this drill.
You see, if the shoulders are lifting to draw in the breath, then they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing (i.e. holding up your head and doing awesome things with your arms).
What we want to see is our belly expanding on an in breath; the shoulder should only lift at the very end of a deep inhalation.
Let’s See If We Can Fix Your Breathing Problem
- Lie down on your back.
- Place a small weight on your belly (in my gym we use thai pads or light kettlebells).
- Now, when you breathe in try to lift that weight up with the breath.
- Have the weight lift up before the chest lifts.
- Have the chest lower before the weight lowers.
The guy in the video had a about an inch and a half difference in shoulder height before the drill along with constant right shoulder pain. After the drill the difference was down to about half an inch and the pain was greatly reduced.
Once you have the sequence, count how long it takes to inhale and lift that weight. Whatever number you hit, double it and that’s how long you aim to exhale for.
Continue to inhale and exhale on that 1:2 ratio for a few minutes.
It may take some practice, but persist, have patience.
When you’re done, get up SLOWLY!
You may well be light headed and little dizzy.
It’s a good idea to do this drill at the start and end of each training session. But ultimately you want to be able to breathe in this manner all day every day, so from time to time pause yourself, place your hand on your belly and do a handful of breaths using the same pattern. After you’ve done this with a weight, do your best to apply it without a weight; do it sitting, standing, walking, etc.
Drill 2: Inverted Row Plus
You’ve heard of the Push Up Plus where at the top of the push up you push further to protract the scapular and activate the serratus muscles? If not, look it up, it’s a great drill.
For most people though, getting into their middle back area and getting the lower traps to fire well is a key player in reducing shoulder pain.
So, let’s take the Push Up Plus and flip it.
Sling yourself from a suspension training unit (I use gym rings, but a TRX or any other type of system is cool).
Now, turn your hands so that they are back to back. Your shoulder blades should spread wide apart as the ribs sink low between them.
Screw the hands out until the palms are uppermost; feel this movement reflected in the shoulder blades as they retract and depress, lifting the chest out high.
Once you’ve turned the hands, keep the chest leading you as you pull up towards the rings.
Your ideal finish position is with the little fingers in your armpits and the shoulder blades glued back and down.
If you don’t get this high, no problem, pull only as far as your current strength level will allow. The last thing we need is for you to pull as hard as you can and to revert to poor movement patterns. If you feel your shoulders lifting up towards your ears, or the scapulae moving apart, stop, and lower back down.
Regress this movement right back, all the way until you feel it in your ego. Form is paramount and the if done diligently, this will make a massive difference to your shoulder health.
Drill 3: Everything Bottoms Up!
And I mean EVERYTHING!
Kettlebells are phenomenal training tools for a lot of good reasons. But from a shoulder health perspective, the ability to hold a kettlebell inverted with the ball above the hand is just magical.
Several things happen when you perform bottoms up drills, such as Presses, Half and full Turkish Get Ups, Cleans, Carries and even Squats.
Half Get Up
Dave Showing Off
First is the level of concentration required. There’s no mindless lifting when the kettlebell is upside down; you have to be fully present during the lift.
The grip has to be just so. Tight enough that it holds the kettlebell, not too tight that you can’t move. And we know that when we grip tight, we get a reflexive contraction up the arm, into the shoulder and even into the back.
You’ll also learn to balance the weight nicely in the base of the palm so that the weight is centered over the bones of the forearm.
Next is the constant, tiny adjustments that the body has to make as the weight wobbles. This is perhaps the real magic for the shoulder as it is constantly and reflexively reacting to steady the unstable weight.
This reflexive response to the weight almost always serves to settle the shoulder into a proper, safe, and efficient movement pattern.
There’s a lot more besides this, but for the most people, most of the time these three movements will help to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, shoulder pain and go a long way towards developing strong and athletic shoulders ready for anything.
Author: Dave Hedges
Dave Hedges is a founding member of Wild Geese Martial Arts and runs the Strength & Fitness training side of the business. As an accomplished martial artist himself, Dave understands the needs of a combat athlete. This knowledge underpins his training methodology. As a fighter must be Strong, Enduring and Mobile, these elements form the three pillars of the training he runs. Pillars that serve a variety of athletes and fitness enthusiasts from a variety of backgrounds. Dave is probably best known for his expertise with Kettlebells and his ability to help people restore function and return to high performance after injury. Find out more at www.WG-Fit.com