Shoulder Problems Suck
Shoulder issues prevent you from pushing hard on key exercises like the bench press and overhead press. They can even mess up your squat.
A lot of these shoulder problems come from being inefficient at stabilizing the shoulder joint. It is, after all, the most mobile (and thus unstable) joint in the body. Sure, a solution can be to strengthen those muscles that stabilize the shoulder girdle, but oftentimes the problem isn't so much a lack of muscle but rather an inability to recruit these muscles quickly enough to make the joint stable under heavy loads.
One of the best methods to improve that capacity to stabilize is the hanging band technique (HBT). Ever seen athletes or powerlifters who hang weights from a barbell when benching or squatting? That's HBT.
In the earlier preparation phases I like to use HBT for bench press and overhead press, but I also use the same approach with accessory work. In the case of the shoulders, I find the technique to be even more effective with isolation work than with the big basic lifts.
HBT will also present an interesting hypertrophy stimulus because the need to stabilize and the micro-oscillation will increase muscle fiber recruitment, especially in the fast-twitch fibers (the fibers most prone to growth).
I like to superset an HBT isolation movement with its "stable" equivalent. The former will increase muscle fiber activation, potentiate the nervous system, and "teach" the body to stabilize the joint. The stable version allows you to fully fatigue and stimulate the muscle fibers, leading to maximum growth.
For the shoulders I like to use the lateral raise and the front raise. I use two exercises done back to back. The first one uses a weight hanging from a small resistance band. (If the band is too thick, there will be a lot less movement and thus less need to stabilize.) The lifting phase of each rep is done fairly fast because we actually want the weight to swing to create the need to stabilize. At the top of the concentric portion, you hold for two seconds, trying to stay perfectly rigid.
The second exercise is the same movement but with dumbbells. You do regular reps to failure or close to it.
Let's look at an example. It combines HBT lateral raises with dumbbell lateral raises – 8-10 reps are done for each.
Note: The same superset can be done with front raises.
This is a great approach to rapidly improve shoulder stability while also stimulating muscle growth and improving your capacity to recruit more muscle fibers, which will also increase future gains.
I use the same method for curls. It's especially effective since I always had a hard time recruiting my biceps.