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Why Strong Glutes Make Healthy Shoulders!

sandbag exercise equipment

Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Co-Creator of DVRT Restoration, Progressive Kettlebell Movement, DVRT Pelvic Control & Shoulder Courses)

sandbag exercises

I’m not going to lie, it would be WAY easier to approach fitness by speaking like everyone else talks. Breaking down things into what people THINK functional fitness is about would make for a slam dunk business. In fact, anyone that knows me also knows that I don’t like doing the same thing day in and day out. One reason that I chose physical therapy was because there are so many different aspects and areas of focus. So, being with DVRT and what Josh has been doing for the past 10 years is ONLY possible because I love how we focus on talking about real movement concepts and how they impact how strong we are, how well we move, and how resilient we can make people. Trust me, working with your spouse is DEFINITELY not easy;) Yet, finding BETTER ways to improve how people moved, how they could be stronger faster, and more resilient to injury is what drove my passion in sharing what we do! Now with our new Progressive Kettlebell  Movement Certification (PKM) released, we are able to address ideas in greater progressions.

Before we can talk about the cool tools and awesome exercises, we have to begin with that infamous WHY! Why would I spend so much time talking about these chains of the body, trying to tell a world that sees everyone else talking about individual muscles that the body works the exact opposite! Trust me, it isn’t the path to millions if you were wondering.

I get it, we want to look good and many people think if we can’t focus on a “problematic” muscle then it won’t look good and/or strong. This is just the OPPOSITE of what we are trying to explain. If we focus on isolating a muscle it can definitely grow and get some strength, but it is going to be limited in that respect because our body doesn’t operate that way. To this day, fitness expert Alwyn Cosgrove has yet to give any money out for his “pencil challenge.” What is that? Alwyn is willing to pay BIG money to the first person that can pick up a pencil with one muscle. Of course the point is that it is impossible, even for the most simple task.

So, what if we could STILL make a muscle look good, but also perform at a higher level. I have a hard time believing most would ever have an issue with the physique of a gymnast, wrestler, or martial artist, ALL who train mostly by integrating the body.

On the flip side, that doesn’t mean we are giving full permission to crazy exercises that are done in the name of stability, functional fitness, or core strength. These are very specific attributes that we know a lot about (you can check out Josh’s recent article on stability training HERE).

Dr. Brandon Marcello did a fantastic job breaking down complex concepts of stability at our Power and Resiliency Summit

A great example is how our shoulders are very much reliant upon our glutes, core, and even feet! Sounds so odd, how could our shoulders have ANYTHING to do with muscles that aren’t even close to that area of the body? I’ve been sharing this video A LOT because it helps bring these concepts to life and why we do things like train the glutes and shoulders so differently than others.

Is that one muscle? Of course not! It is how a series of muscles work synergistically to provide us stability, strength, and complex movement skills without us even taking about it! However, it also shows how our opposite foot, lower leg, thigh, hip, and trunk muscles can have SUCH a big impact upon how our shoulders perform and move! While most articles focus on the specific anatomy of the shoulder, we SHOULD be looking at the whole of the body. Sure, there can be a specific issue with your shoulder, but we should be looking at the entire picture and not just tune into ONLY the shoulder itself. As famed physical therapist, Diane Lee has said, “the criminals never scream as loudly as the victims.”


The spiral line is one of many chains that are all working at the same time as we move in complex ways.

If we understand HOW the glutes can impact our shoulders, how does this impact both how we address the glutes and shoulders?

If we look at the 4 drills I shared in the video above, you might think that the benefit to the shoulders are only by holding the kettlebells overhead. However, in the first series, the hip bridge and kettlebell press has to do with the fact that the lats are both a key shoulder stabilizer AND they work with the trunk and opposing glutes for a system known as the Posterior Oblique Sling (POS). It is with this chain that stabilizes our spine as we walk and run which are very unstable movements due to the time we are on single leg and moving rather quickly. Instead of putting the weight on our hips, it should be in a placement like you see above where it ties in the chain of the lats and core as well.


As I break down in our PKM program, holding the kettlebells aren’t enough, how and where we hold them play equal importance. In the bottom, that is an incorrect way to make these connections because we lose the lats and put all the work into the shoulders. 

As DVRT Master, Cory Cripe shows above, this falls in line with how we use the Ultimate Sandbag as well. How does the Ultimate Sandbag and kettlebell series work together? You would follow this pattern of loading before we change the legs….

-USB Press Out

-KB Double Press Out

-USB with Rotation

-KB Alternating Press

-USB Lift/Chop patterns

So, one is not MORE important than the other, but where you are in your training and creating progressions is key. While that by itself is a lot to take in, if we go to the lateral band walk we add another layer. Lateral stability plays such a HUGE part in making our knees, low backs, and shoulders stronger and more resilient. Yet, most don’t do too much more than a token side plank here and there. In a drill like a lateral band walk, we not only want to work the lateral chain of the lower body and trunk, but integrate this with your shoulders working with opposing hips. Josh knows my affinity for Wonder Woman and has called this crossing of the body the Wonder Woman chain;)


When you see me hold one kettlebell overhead, I’m crushing the handle because that gives me the connection to greater rotator cuff activation as well as my lats and core. My right arm is connected to that left hip. Holding the other kettlebell in the rack position allows me to create tension and stability by the connection in the lats/core in keeping my elbows into my ribs and crushing that handle (you could hold both kettlebells in the rack position if overhead is too much).

You can see in the above video how we can again, integrate the USB and kettlebells into not just MORE exercises, but better ways to train these qualities! That takes us to the double kettlebell windmill. This is actually a lateral hip hinge and while people focus on the shoulders, it is more about what the trunk and hips do! You can see that cross pattern again, but now we also have the lateral muscles of the body moving and resisting at the same time. A lot more going on than most people think as Josh explains…

However, the kettlebell doesn’t always have to be overhead to learn these important concepts, especially if your shoulder is giving you issues right now! The kettlebell can be in the low position, but we can also use the help of the Ultimate Sandbag to learn how to keep a stable trunk while having mobile hips that really rely on the glutes.

Then finally we have a sprinter stance loaded kettlebell clean. How is THIS a shoulder exercise as well as hitting the glutes? Well we need to create a lot of stability into our feet because we are slightly unstable. That helps build the connection with the core and glutes from the “bottom up”. Then we have how we grip the kettlebells, while cleaning you have to balance relaxation/tension, however, the kettlebell that is in anchor can be really squeezed. We are building connection to our lats/core/ and glutes from the “top down”. I explain how we teach this in foundational concepts in our USB deadlift.

What I really hope for is that you see we can achieve the fitness goals of looking really good, but also being strong and performing better in life. Functional fitness shouldn’t mean that you do not train muscles, it means that we focus on way MORE muscles and how they are designed to function. When we address how the body wants to use areas like our glutes and upper body, we start to see how we create better solutions and progressions. That is they key in everything we do in DVRT and PKM!

This week whenever you invest in any of our DVRT Rx Corrective Exercise Courses/Certifications you will get a Core Ultimate Sandbag for FREE to go along with the great fitness information. Just use code “dvrtrx” HERE!