I’ve been waking up for the past year (since we’ve had our
son) with right shoulder p – wait – almost said the “p” word –
let’s call it “discomfort.”
I think the reason is 3-fold:
1. I’ve been forced to sleep on my right side and end up
sleeping on my shoulder, arm straight, with it internally
rotated (ouch!), stuck under my pillow.
2. I was really asymmetrical when I was Olympic lifting
so I always caught my Snatches wonky (yes, the technical
term – wonky) with more weight on my right side than my
3. Since I’ve been doing “opposite training” over the last
2 years, I’ve stripped away a lot of my compensations and
may have revealed an injury in that shoulder that needs to
be looked at.
However, lately, my shoulder has been feeling much better.
I’ve been doing some new stuff that’s really been helping
and now my range of motion is much better and almost
Truth be told, I’ve had a lot of shoulder issues over the last
23 years of lifting that I’ve overcome. Maybe you can relate.
And I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to help a lot of
people bounce back from shoulder injuries/surgeries,
including a 71 year old tennis player who ended up snatching
70lbs with the reconstructed shoulder! (He was a stud.)
Here are 5 Key Points I’ve found helpful for myself and my
clients over the past 15 years or so.
1. Avoid pain.
Seems like a no-brainer, but all it does is increase the inflammation
in your shoulder.
And yes, that also means to stop doing those exercises that cause
you pain or discomfort.
2. Focus on shoulder extension and external rotation.
Most people sit at a desk all day long tap tap tapping away on
a keyboard. That means their arms are in front of them, palms
down. Which also means their shoulders are in flexion and
Exercises like rowing and the Get Up sit up where you focus
on screwing the support arm into the ground are really going
to help you out.
Cause time is a form of loading. And if you spend all day at the
keyboard, you’re loading those patterns – those movements. You
need to spend some time countering those movements.
The cool thing is that these movements train your rotator cuff,
stretch out tight biceps and pecs, engage your lats, and allow
your shoulders to “breathe” again – they create space in them
and allow the shoulder to become centered in its socket.
3. Increase your thoracic mobility.
You know that area from the base of your neck to right below
your ribcage – yeah, the one that gets tight from sitting all day
and yeah – the one that feels like a brick?
That’s your thoracic spine.
Lack of movement there affects how your shoulder blades move
or don’t move, which in turn affect how well your arms move or
don’t move. And that of course dictates how that pesky rotator
“cup” as one of my clients calls it – operates.
(Yes, I know, it’s “rotator cuff.” :-] )
There are lots of great exercises for doing this – Cat/Camels,
Bretzels, Primitive Rolls (one of my favorites). And when you
do them you give your shoulders a break.
4. Remember that the shoulder is attached to your hip.
A lot of people have tight hips. VERY tight hips. I used to be
one of those people. And most people don’t know that your
shoulders are attached to your hips.
It’s true, I can assure you, as weird as that sounds.
Your right shoulder is attached to your left hip via your lat and
your thoracolumbar fascia, which is an area in your low back
where everything ties together.
(Noted Physical Therapist, Gary Gray, even goes so far as to
classify this whole area as the “Peltrunkula” – the pelvis, trunk,
and scapula (shoulder blade) because the whole area is so
closely knit together.)
And often if one joint is tight, the other is loose – or hypermobile
as the medicals like to say. So a tight right hip can produce
a loose left shoulder, which has no stability. And that can cause
some major issues.
So you may not always need to look at the shoulder. Make sure
you’re doing some hip mobility work too. By opening the hip you
restore the natural tension in your body and can help reset your
5. Focus on your pulling muscles.
These are of course the muscles on the back side of your body
and this fits very well with number 2 – in fact, it’s kind of the
general version of #2.
We want exercises that focus on pulling your shoulder blades
down and back – the opposite position they spend their time in
when I’m doing this – typing at the com-poo-ter.
They can be static holds or rowing movements or Chins/Pull-ups.
Just plug them into your exercise program as a priority.
(MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: If you have active pain – movements
that produce a pronounced “OUCH!” go see your doctor, not
some supposed “movement specialist.” Why? Because you’ll
probably want to get some imaging done so you can actually
SEE – instead of guess – what the issue is.)
TRAINING AROUND A SHOULDER ISSUE
So all this begs a question – how do you train around a shoulder
First, and again, don’t’ do anything that actively causes pain.
Second, now’s a GREAT time to focus on other things, like your
pushing up your lower body strength with Front Squats and
You can even push your conditioning levels up with Swings.
If you’re hurting for ideas (no pun intended) about exactly how
to do that, check out “Kettlebell Express!” – there’s over 49
different programs in there – lots of them focusing on lower
body strength and overall conditioning.
So you won’t be at a loss for what to do while overcoming your
Third, actively work around your shoulder issue by dealing
with the issues that are causing your problems in the first
A great resource that comes to mind is my good friend Brett
Jones’ and Gray Cook’s, “Secrets of the Shoulder” DVD. They
cover a lot of this stuff and a lot of other really cool things you
would never think of.
So there you have it – if you’re dealing with any sort of shoulder
issues, you now have some ideas about how to get over them.
The hardest part I think you’ll find about all this is what I found –
Getting over the denial – that there might actually be a problem
and that you should probably do something about it.
But I can tell you this –
You know what the best part about banging your head against
the wall is?
Think about it.
P.S. If you read this and you “bristled” about the Medical Disclaimer
part – relax – check your ego at the door. Sure, we can help a lot
of people out, including ourselves, but at the end of the day, if you’re
not a licensed medical professional, and you don’t have x-ray vision,
then you’re just guessing. Seriously.
P.P.S. I know shoulder issues are a bummer, but I can say 100% for
sure based on my own experience and by helping post-rehab shoulder
clients, that if you just give yourself a good focused 4-8 weeks
dealing with your shoulder issues, you’ll feel like a new man or
woman when you’re done.
And the best part is you’ll be able to get back to doing the things
you wanted to do but couldn’t. And that, let me tell you, feels