Top Menu

27 Tips for Healthier Shoulders- Part 1

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Muscle

I’ve spent the last two and a half decades pounding the shit out of my shoulders. While that sucks for me it’s actually good news for you. Why, you ask? Because when you’ve torn traps, rotator cuffs and labrums you develop a pretty keen interest in avoiding shoulder injuries.

You also develop a pretty good MacGyver instinct about how to work around them. And today I’m going to share some of that information with the Renegade Army.

Here is a list of 27 tips that will help you keep your shoulders strong and healthy.

1) Do YTWL’s as a Warm Up Before Every Workout- This is an awesome way to fire up all the muscles you need to protect your shoulders against injury.

2) Do 30-50 Reps Per Day of Shoulder Dislocations With a Broomstick- This increases mobility and pumps healing nutrients into your shoulders. Do this every day of the week for a month and I can almost guarantee you that your shoulders will feel better.

3) Do Vertical Pressing Before Horizontal Pressing- If you are going to do some form of military press and some form of bench press in the same workout try doing the overhead work first. I have found this to be a great way to avoid pain and strengthen your shoulders. I can’t explain exactly why but the overhead work just seems to prepare you better for the bench pressing variations. I have had numerous people try this (many of whom had pain with any form of benching with a bar or dumbbells) and they all reported feeling significantly better.

4) Begin the First Rep of Any Set of Military Presses with a Slight Leg Drive- You don’t have to turn the whole set into push presses but you do want to use a slight leg drive to at least get the very first rep moving. The reason for that is because pressing the bar off your front delts from a dead stop with no momentum can be very stressful. It’s the most stressful part of the entire rep. Unless you are competing in some kind of strict pressing contest I’d recommend using the leg drive. If you have preexisting shoulder injuries you may want to do a slight push press on every rep.

5) At the End of Each Set of Military Presses You Do Hold the Bar in the Top Position- This is sometimes referred to as structural integrity work and can help strengthen, stabilize and bulletproof the shoulders. I recommend holding the bar up there at lockout (the joints are meant to lock and support load so forget about that myth that you should never lock out) for three to five seconds. On the last set of the day you could hold it up there for ten seconds or longer.

6) Use a Swiss Bar Instead of Straight Bar for Horizontal Pressing- The Swiss bar allows you to press with your palms facing in towards each other which is far more natural and a lot safer. If you train at home or some type of small warehouse gym I highly recommend ordering. I would ALWAYS make that my bar of choice if I were ever to bench press again.

7) Swap Out Bench Presses For Low Incline Presses- Most regular readers know by now that I’m not a huge fan of the flat bench press. But I do like having big barbell movements in the program as indicator lifts. The low inline press, with the bench set to somewhere between fifteen and thirty degrees was a favorite chest exercise of six time Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates. This variation hits the pecs more effectively and is less stressful on the shoulder. Even better is the low incline press with the Swiss Bar.

8] Never Bench Press With a Wide Grip- In powerlifting it’s known that using a wider grip reduces the range of motion and thus, theoretically you should be able to press more weight. The downside is that the wide grip puts your shoulders through hell so you should really consider avoiding it and only benching with a close to medium grip width. The widest I would ever recommend is pinkies in the rings and even closer than that for most people. You have to think long term and remember that if you shoulders are destroyed you won’t even be able to bench the bar eventually.

The great Konstantinovs knows the importance of this and has discussed it in the past. Here he is in the video below benching 507 for 3 with what many might consider a close grip.

9)  If You Do Flat or Incline Presses With Dumbbells Always Use a Neutral Grip- As mentioned above, the neutral grip is a lot more natural and allows you to keep your elbows in tighter while sparing your shoulders.

10) Always Keep Your Shoulder Blades Fully Squeezed Together During Horizontal Pressing Movements- Whenever you are lying on your back and pressing a bar or dumbbells you want to maintain a very tight, bunched up feeling in your upper back and never allow your shoulder blades to come apart. This keeps the shoulders in a much stronger and safer position.

Please leave your questions and comments below.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

19 Responses to 27 Tips for Healthier Shoulders- Part 1

  1. Luis March 23, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    How about wrist pain? I´ve been suffering from that every time I press a bar horizontally or vertically

  2. Tracy Langford March 23, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Great tips! Christian Thibadeau mentioned something similar in his articles about vertical pressing before horizontal pressing. I like doing a few sets of handstand holds on off days to improve my structural integrity.

  3. Raymond- ZenMyFitness March 23, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Thanks for all those tips ..I’ve been trying to press as heavy as I can and I keep on wondering if my shoulder will get hurt at some point as a lot of people complain this condition.
    I do use a wider grip it was the only I could lift heavier weights but I’ll definitely change that back to a medium grip and decrease the load if I have to.

    I’m not sure what point 3 is I’ve never heard of Shoulder Dislocations with a broomstick but I’ll hit Google and find out.

  4. Gary Deagle March 23, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    3 and 7 are two things I have learned from you that have helped my shoulder health the most. I use to always have a little nagging rotator cuff or something going on. Once I switched all my bench pressing to a slight decline the pain went away completely after a couple months.

  5. Jd March 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Jason I’ve have a home gym and have tried looking for a Swiss bar to purchase but have had no luck, know of any place that sells them?

  6. Will March 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    What about using a trap bar for pressing movements? And are dumbbells safer overall than barbells for overhead pressing?

  7. Jason Ferruggia March 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Luis- Switch to dumbbells with a neutral grip or get a Swiss Bar


    Will- No. Yes

  8. Jason - FitnessWorkouts March 23, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    YTWL’s – I have done these only on shoulder days, maybe I will start adding them in on a more regular basis. #10 is tough to do. The same the same goes with squating, it is hard to keep tight through the entire move. I think this is wehere it is important to leave one in the tank like you have mentioned before. When you are spent it is hard to keep tight.

  9. Jeff March 23, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    To add to number 4…For shoulder presses, I don’t start with the bar on my shoulders anymore, I start with the bar overhead in the lockout position and this seems to help make the move more comfortable for my shoulders…I set the pins on the squat cage up as high as they’ll go, and, standing on the outside of the cage, I put the bar on the pin handles….It’s a mini-overhead squat to unrack the bar (from a staggered stance) but it does seem to help…just my 2 cents…

    Good stuff, Jason!

  10. Don Johnson March 23, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    Great List Jason, I wish I had learned #3 when I first started training. If I could add one thing it would be to do some form of external rotator work once or twice a week, whether with dumbbells or cables. This is something that has saved my shoulders. I think the Shoulder Horn, much like the ab wheel, is a piece of gym equipment that doesn’t get enough hype.

  11. Anthony Myers March 25, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    I got this just in time, considering today is my shoulder day. Definitely going to give #4 and #5 a shot.

  12. Hassan March 25, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    Great article, Jason. I’ve read that although using a neutral grip is safer for your shoulders when performing the dumbbell bench press and dumbbell overhead press, it is less effective in tems of building muscle mass in the chest and shoulder region, respectively (apparently, your shoulders and triceps come into play more than your chest when bench pressing in this fasion, as do your triceps when shoulde pressing using a neutral grip). To what extent do you consider this to be true?

  13. Ívar Örn Arnarsson March 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Thank you!
    Good warming up tips and nr.7 the Bench Presses have been alway causing me should injury. i will follow your advise.

  14. Travis Sawyer March 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    Jason the shoulder dislocations exercise worked fantastic. I have chronic fatigue and am still training my clients but my muscles tighten up like crazy over the course of a week, so I can only train myself on a very minimal volume based on what Alwyn Cosgrove suggested to me last year. I haven’t been doing this exercise for years but the difference it made after a few days was phenominal. I definitely owe you lunch the next time I’m in the US. Thanks mate.

  15. Mike Rembrandt January 18, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    What are YTWL’s?

  16. Till February 18, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    “Do 30-50 Reps Per Day of Shoulder Dislocations With a Broomstick” – solid gold.

  17. Jason January 12, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    I have been plagued with shoulder pinching and impingement and I was researching neutral grip OH press when I came across this article. Great information here especially the daily shoulder dislocations. I have been having an annoying pinch in my right shoulder for a couple of weeks but after doing the shoulder dislocations and a few half circles my shoulders feel great and the pinch has gone. Looking forward to the neutral grip OH press tomorrow. Thanks a lot I will be saving this information hopefully this puts me back on the road to healthy shoulders.

  18. tani September 23, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Love your site man!

  19. tani September 23, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    I was wondering about keeping my shoulder blades retracted also in pushups?or is that only in free weighted pressing.because I’ve always heard that your supposed to keep
    ur shoulder blades protracted in pushups for healthier shoulders.