Shoulder Health

Lifting heavy weights overhead can be scary. All you need to do is see one of the “gym fails” online and you might second guess performing any Jerk or Snatch variation. Building up tolerance to stabilize heavy weight overhead should be a process that ends with the Olympic Lifting variations, not started. Below are some of my favorite drills to help improve overhead stability, whether you are rehabbing from a shoulder injury or if you just want to feel more comfortable under a barbell.

Downward Dog

A closed chain exercise is defined as one where you are moving about a stable surface. This is usually seen with lower extremity exercises where your feet are on the ground, or in this case for your upper extremity, with your hands on the ground. One of my favorite ways to build stability while changing your shoulder angle is a Downward Dog. Yes, everyone’s favorite Yoga pose! It is an amazing way for you to keep your hands in a stationary “safe” position, while gradually moving through shoulder flexion. I will increase hold time with the downward dog as well as add in variations such as hand lifts and opposite ankle reaches to make it more difficult.

 

1/2 Kneeling Bottom Back Kettlebell Presses

This might sound opposite of what you are looking for if someone has a hypermobile shoulder, however having excess mobility and being able to control weight throughout the range are two different things. Most of the time, when I see someone who is having an issue with a hypermobile shoulder they are unable to press overhead without hyperextending their back to compensate. Hyperextending their back is a way for them to feel more comfortable with the weight in a slightly less overhead position relative to their trunk. A way I like to work on this is with a 1/2 kneeling, kettlebell facing back overhead press. I will typically have my athletes press into a wall with their off hand to hopefully engage the core and prevent hyperextension. Next, I will have them press overhead with the weight facing back to help add an extra pull towards full shoulder flexion. The athlete will allow the weight to pull backwards while having to control/prevent the weight from pulling too far.

 

Bottom Up Kettlebell for Stability

I love to use bottom up kettlebell variations for stability! Stability can be challenged with bands, uneven bars, etc. but I really like the use of Kettlebells. Once, we finish a couple rounds or the bottom back Press discussed above, I will flip the weight facing upwards and repeat the drill. This will add the extra variable of having to control the weight and not let it drop forward or back. If you are able to control an upside down Kettlebell, I am sure you will feel a little more comfortable under a barbell. Be sure you know how to safely catch the weight before performing this drill.

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