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Where Your Shoulder Exercises Go Wrong!


holiday sale

Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Co-Creator DVRT Restoration, Pelvic Control, and Shoulder Course)

shoulder exercises

I don’t ever judge people for doing what they THINK is right, even if they may be missing the bigger picture. Making mistakes is how we grow and I can’t tell you how many mistakes I made as a young physical therapist! What is a bit disconcerting is when we have better information and we continue to ignore it. It was Maya Angelou that said…..

Shoulders tend to be a great example of how we know more than ever and yet, we are still doing the same shoulder exercises we did back in the 80’s! Now, we don’t change things to just change them, but as we gain more information we should ask ourselves if we truly are doing the best possible!

How do I mean though? Should we stop doing shoulder exercises? Well, we probably SHOULD stop thinking of the shoulder as an independent part of the entire body. Just like everything else in our body, our shoulders are part of a bigger system. The shoulder is meant to be a joint with a lot of movement and that benefit can also be its downfall if we don’t know how to train it with the rest of the body.

“But Jessica my shoulder hurts, shouldn’t I train my shoulder?”

I hear that a lot, but it reminds me of the quote from renown physical therapist, Diane Lee, “the criminals never scream as loud as the victims.” Meaning, just because an area bothers you doesn’t mean that was the cause of the problem. Even when the shoulder is the problem (let’s say you got hit in the shoulder for example), we still want to train it in conjunction with the chains that involve the shoulder because that is how our nervous system (our governing system) sees how we will use it in movement.

So, what are common mistakes people make with shoulder exercises? Let’s examine the most often missed opportunities….

We Take The Core Out!

How often do you see people laying on benches, stability balls, and the like while they perform their shoulder exercises? I see it all the time especially with rotator cuff targeted drills, Y, T’s, and I drill, and so forth. Don’t worry, I use to do that too because I really wanted to focus on the shoulder. However, what I learned with DVRT is that the core is the foundation that our shoulders rely upon to have strong and stable shoulders. If we don’t integrate how the core and shoulders work together, we will never truly help the shoulders like we think!

You see from the “shoulder exercises” above how I am trying to integrate the core with the actions of the shoulders. Imagine trying to build a really tall building with a really weak foundation?! You are right if you think it is going to keep falling down and be unstable!

These concepts of functional fitness should help us make even the most familiar of shoulder exercises better. How about a classic wall slide? By itself it could give us some information about how people move, as a training drill it is very limited. We don’t teach people HOW to integrate the shoulder or how the core works with the rest of the body.

Shoulders Are More Than Pressing

We still tend to look at the body through a bodybuilding pair of glasses. If the shoulders aren’t working right let’s do some really select shoulder exercises. However, these shoulder exercises rarely look like anything that the shoulder actually does in life. One of the father’s of functional training physical therapist, Gary Gray has given some great insights to how we need to think about shoulder exercises. Concepts like….

“The pelvis, trunk, and scapula all tie together (peltrunk-ula formula) for an under- standing of function in the shoulder”

“The shoulder has the capacity to go through tri-plane loading as well as tri-plane unloading.”

Functional rehabilitation of the shoulder requires that we allow every part of our patient’s body to become successful to contribute to the success of the shoulder.”
One way I love to take these ideas of more functional shoulder exercises is in the use of lifts/chops. These diagonal pattern derived from the physical therapy system of PNF actually are designed to work with how our body is designed to function. If we think about the spiral line of the body which is a connection of muscles that work from our foot to our opposite shoulder we can see how these shoulder exercises that don’t LOOK like shoulder exercises can be some of the best ways to train the body.
Seeing these connections should impact the exercises we create and the ones we find not to be all that productive!
That is why it probably confused people all day that when I said these were great shoulder exercises even though you aren’t doing pressing or pulling exercises. However, if we understand how the body functions they start to make SO much sense!
Get A Grip!
If we see the feet and the core are important to shoulder exercises we have made MAJOR leaps in the ways we can help people feel, perform, and feel better! However, there is one more important concept which is grip! Love the way that Arrow Physical Therapy in Seattle shares why grip is important for the shoulder…
“It is thought that there is what we call “anticipatory stability” in the upper extremity when we grip. Simply, your brain knows that when you grip something, it now needs to turn on the muscles of the shoulder in order for the arm to function properly and avoid injury. Essentially, your shoulder will be better prepared to handle the stress you are about to place on it…..Increased neural drive means increased readiness for movement execution. Some have called this “irradiation”, or a spreading and increasing strength of response. We are referring to an adaptation in which the nervous system is more effectively and efficiently communicating with the muscles and is able to produce greater force despite the muscle being the same size. When we grip, we increase neural drive. This is vital to shoulder health.”
I can’t tell you how many times I see people doing shoulder exercises that don’t integrate these ideas. These aren’t bad people they are just missing out on what functional training helps us understand how the body performs in much smarter ways. Just doing the exercises below isn’t enough. Knowing the intent of using grip, even when my hands are flat on the ground I’m trying to “grab the ground” is where the “magic” of DVRT really happens. When you understand how our body works you can not only build a better body, but a more resilient one that lets you live the type of life that is most meaningful to you!
Our last holiday sale of 2019 is on! Save 30% all throughout DVRT (except live events) and when you invest in our Ultimate Sandbags you will receive 2 of our great Ultimate Sandbag and Kettlebell combination workout programs that expand what functional training can offer. Don’t miss it HERE with code “holiday30” and you can also get 30% off our great DVRT Online Education that Jessica created HERE.