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The Shoulder Exercises That Save Your Shoulders!

ultimate sandbag

Is bodybuilding dead? I mean, I hear fitness professionals say that all the time, but then I look at what people do and how they think about the body and how they approach making people better and I believe bodybuilding is live and VERY well. Even in the world of functional training! The perfect example of this confusion is how we approach our shoulder exercises and helping our shoulders be strong and healthy.

Why do I have an issue with bodybuilding? I don’t if you just enjoy doing it. However, when you say that it is the only way to build strength, muscle, and most importantly, fix how people move this IS a problem! The simplest reason is because this is not how our body is designed to work! In fact, trying to isolate the body goes against EVERYTHING the body would LIKE to do!


I know what you are thinking, the saying by renowned strength coach, Mike Boyle, doesn’t really apply to you. The workouts and exercises you are using aren’t about jumping or running. You want to look better, be stronger, and hurt less. Yes, this applies to you too, especially when we discuss our shoulder exercises and the like!


Yes, 100 years ago without all the technology we have today we understood these points! What happened?! 

Let’s look at specifically why most shoulder exercises you are given to “help” actually do very little to improve how your shoulders feel or perform. It starts with a few key points…

Key #1: It isn’t a strength issue

In an industry where we are use to using lifting weights to solve everything, it makes sense we attack movement and strength issues with having to lift. We think everything is a strength issue, but as renowned performance expert, Dr. Brandon Marcello points out, it isn’t that simple.

stability training

Oh man, that horrible idea called motor control! You can’t rep out your motor control, you don’t get a “pump” from your motor control, you can’t feel your motor control. What is motor control? Well, what Dr. Marcello basically said, “timing and sequential activation of muscles.” It is HOW and WHEN your muscles work together that makes the difference!

What does that mean for your shoulder exercises? Just working with your shoulders on face pulls, laying down and doing reverse flies, etc. is often NOT the reason your shoulders are bothering you. I know that sounds crazy because if we have issues in our shoulders than working your shoulder exercises SHOULD help you, no? That makes no sense!!! Well, it does if you really understand WHY your shoulders are problematic and can get your head around the idea that shoulders are not a byproduct of just strength. That takes us to point two!

Find out why even well intended shoulder exercises aren’t going to be the solution for your shoulders!

Key #2: Your shoulders are greatly impacted by your grip, glutes, and core!!!

It is VERY hard for people to understand that shoulder exercises aren’t really about your shoulders at all! I shared this before, but the key to functional training is to make “connections” and as spinal expert, Dr. Stuart McGill says, “linkage”. When it comes to your shoulder exercises this doesn’t change either!

shoulder exercises

When it comes to the shoulders though? What are they connected to exactly? What is this “linkage” we are making? As we look at more functional anatomy diagrams we can see some clear connections.

shoulder exercises

Looking at the diagrams above, we see a few keys about what should shape our shoulder exercises. Our lats are our ONLY connection from our shoulder to our pelvis. The lats connect with the opposing glutes through the white “stuff” known as your thoracolumbar fascia. Meaning, if we are going to help build better shoulder exercises we need to integrate our lats, core, and opposing glutes! This is how our body is “programmed” to function.

Why do we have “weird” looking exercises in DVRT like DVRT Masters Taizo Omuro and Paige Fleischmann show? In order to make these very connections that give so much more power to our shoulder exercises. 

Key #3: It all starts with your hands and feet!

I wrote recently how I had the honor to spend two days with world renown physical therapist, Gray Cook. During that time we got to talk tons of shop and ideas. I loved how he described the core as in having quadrants. Breaking up two upper quadrants (imagine your shoulders, arms, and core from each side) and a lower quadrant. Only by connecting these quadrants do we actually achieve great core stability.

I loved it because we say the same thing, just a bit more simply. Our core has to come from the ground up and the top down. How do we accomplish this? Through our hands and feet. Where we have contact with the outside world, we must teach the body to use these important points of contact.

shoulder exercises

So, you see laying on benches, trying to isolate your shoulders, and all the like may make your shoulder exercises fatiguing, but they likely aren’t making them better! We can get strength, stability, mobility, performance, and yes muscle if we actually train the body as it WANTS to function. That is what the power of functional training is all about!

Find out how we teach these ideas with this great video by DVRT Master, Joel Gunterman and strength coach Martin Adame in this great series. Discover more how we build smarter and more effective shoulder exercises in our DVRT online education and our new L.I.F.T. Pressing Module. You can get any of these for 30% off with code “fall” HERE