account My cart 0
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Craziest & Smartest Shoulder Exercises


We’ve been focusing a lot on shoulder exercises this week for good reason. The New Year brings in a lot of people wanting to achieve their fitness goals, finally, and nothing gets in the way like injury! I also wanted to focus on shoulder exercises because it is a bit personal. Some of you may know, others may not, in December I went in for another two segments of my neck to be fused!

shoulder exercises

Outside of well wishes, many people wanted to know “what happened?!” I get it, we like to think things like this can be traced back to one incident, one bad idea, whatever it may be. However, the reality is that such things are rarely a byproduct of JUST one thing.

Were there car accidents? Yes!

Are there really bad genetics? Yup!

Did I have several head injuries (hold the jokes for a moment)? Absolutely!

Can I trace everything back to ONE event? Was there an issue in the gym? No on both accounts and sometimes racking your brain trying to figure out such things are frivolous. Especially when your neurosurgeon tells you it was largely bad genes that set you up for many of the issues.

At the end of the day, the reality was I was having significant surgery and didn’t know the outcome. People often misunderstand surgery, rarely can there be promises of feeling better or even “normal”. Surgery is largely designed to fix a problem and hopefully you feel better.

I knew I was going down this road for awhile. When I went through this before, my right arm was getting really weak! This started to happen again and no matter what shoulder exercises I was using my strength continued to fade and I even had issues moving the arm.

Not going to lie, the surgery doesn’t feel so good. However, having been through the spinal fusion process several times, all I could think about was getting to work! The truth is no one can make you better than yourself. Sure, people can help, but ultimately it is up to you!

When Jessica and I started talking my therapy, we were working around many of the limitations I had to my training. Shoulder exercises to retain the nerves but we also couldn’t go above 25 pounds each hand and nothing overhead. Sounds good, but I also had to battle because of the nerve damage my right arm is far from 100%. So what do you do?

It is the real life example of the question I ask attendees of our DVRT programs where I ask coaches, “what happens when you can’t use your favorite exercise?” Thinking about how the body works, my approach to shoulder exercises is REALLY different than anything that most people would think about.

What do you think people would have me doing in therapy? A lot of isolated shoulder exercises is right! Is that the best approach? Jessica and I think not!

Why not? Understanding the shoulder means realizing that the shoulder NEVER works by itself. The core muscles (yea all 35 of them), the hips, and the feet all play a role in the function of the shoulder. Why would we ever isolate in shoulder exercises with that in mind?!

shoulder pain

We can’t keep training the body the same way and ignore the new science of how we move!

Realizing what functional training in shoulder exercises means greatly impacts the exercises I use. Like what?

The above might seem like the most confusing shoulder exercises, but the truth is they follow the functionality of the shoulder better than most actual shoulder based workouts! How?

-Every drill has me in a standing position and often moving in a less stable environment. This ensures that my shoulder exercises work from the feet up and engage the core and glutes to work with my shoulder.

-Grip is a crucial part of each exercise. Since grip is correlated to shoulder health, I want to use implements and movements that require great grip to be involved in these shoulder exercises.

-Tension is key for good core stability to have a platform for these shoulder exercises to function. Whether it is holding a kettlebell, using the feet half kneeling, pulling apart the Ultimate Sandbag, I am using tension to create stability in these shoulder exercises.

-The entire chain of feet, hips, core, and shoulders can be traced in each of these exercises. Even in more direct shoulder exercises with the bands I am half kneeling to create tension from the ground up and integrate the hip and core connection.

But my shoulder exercises get even weirder!!

Sure some of the upper body based exercises are easy to figure out here, but what’s up with these odd lower body movements? For years I have tried to point out to coaches that the beauty of understanding functional training is how we can make connections in ways most people would never see. Being able to connect the body in the natural chains allows us to create smarter exercises.

Are the lunges, rotations, and front loaded good mornings shoulder exercises? Heck yea they are! How? Breaking apart the Ultimate Sandbag with my forearms does two things. It engages the lats that help stabilize my shoulders and it engages the core and hips which we also know helps my shoulders. The point is the best way to help the body is to think about it functions, not just what muscles are worked.

When I was retired from college basketball due to my low back injuries I called my stepmom, Renae. At the time she had just been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. I was terribly upset because a dream of mine was over. She just said one thing, “what now?” Even though she realized she was very sick, she lived by that same mantra, that simple statement has always stayed with me.

This experience with my spine and the continued battle just makes me think of one thing….”what now?” I want to spend this time helping find solutions for others. My example of these shoulder exercises hopefully opens up a much bigger world of fitness and health. An ability to help ourselves and others to live a better life, isn’t that REALLY the goal?

Find out more about how we teach what functional training means and the quality impacting others. Check out the first release of our Loaded Integrated Functional Training Certification (L.I.F.T.) HERE