Tip: Toughen Up Your Shoulders

Make the gains, save your shoulders. Do this drill before pressing.

I'm sure you've experienced some shoulder discomfort at some point and have become acutely aware of its complex, and sometimes frustrating, design.

Not to worry, though. There are some great shoulder circuits you can add to your routine for healthy shoulders. Try this one:

  1. Banded Handwalk
  2. Slide Progression
  3. Shoulder External Rotation

The beauty of this circuit? It addresses several common deficiencies through one series in a very short period of time.

This will help activate the serratus anterior, and it involves a good amount of centration around the joint in the process. The shoulder needs adequate mobility, but just as important is the ability to keep the head of the humerus fixed in socket as you rotate your limbs dynamically in all directions. Handwalks can help reinforce this skill. You'll get a solid training effect and burn in the posterior rotator cuff as well.

With slide progressions, the bands serve as a great tool for reactive neuromuscular training (RNT) since they naturally try to drive the arms toward the body's midline, which you want to resist with this drill.

Out of instinct you'll fight to extend the elbow and create much more adduction and extension through the shoulder as well as retraction and depression of the scapula at the bottom of the movement. The scenario we create here will really engrain a "packing" action of the entire shoulder complex and feed forceful contractions at weak points that can be seen in back squats, front squats, and chin-ups.

To cap things off, finish with a banded shoulder exercise that isn't normally performed bilaterally – shoulder rotations. Keep your elbows abducted about 10-20 degrees (or slightly off your sides) to maximize recruitment of your posterior rotator cuff muscles.

After you've completed the first two exercises there will be a degree of pre-exhaustion at your shoulders making the final drill much more challenging. Just make sure to maintain good posture and form so you don't lose any of the positive adaptations.

  • Do 2-3 sets for 5-8 reps per exercise.
  • Use a band with which you can achieve proper form.
  • Keep the tempo slow and steady.
Travis Hansen specializes in human-performance enhancement for athletes at all levels. He is also the leading authority on speed development for the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). Follow at www.resultsbyscience.com