On to part 3…
20) Do Dips on Gymnastics Rings Instead of Parallel Bars- Unlike the bars which keep you in more of a fixed plane, the rings allow you to move naturally and you can work around the pain.
If I could only do one upper body pressing exercise to build and strengthen the chest, shoulders and triceps this would probably be it.
That’s not to say that dips on parallel bars aren’t great, because they are. But if you can’t do them due to injury this could be a better option for you.
21) Eliminate the Eccentric Component of Olympic Lifts by Dropping the Bar- Olympic lifting variations can be hard on those with shoulder injuries mainly because of the stress that comes from lowering a heavy load so rapidly. If you do high pulls with a lot of weight it can yank away pretty good at those shoulders on the way down, no matter how good your technique is. The simple solution is to simply do singles and drop the bar between each rep.
22) Use a Sled for Explosive Pulls Instead- Louie Simmons turned me onto sled work back in the 90’s and I have found it to be an invaluable asset in the training of clients ever since. A great way to use the sled is to replace barbell Olympic lifts with explosive sled pulls.
Simply hook up a pair of TRX straps to the sled, get in the same position you would be to start a high pull (except that your hands will be out in front of you holding the straps instead of by your knees holding the bar) and then explode up the same way you would with a bar, shooting for triple extension while pulling the straps up toward your chest. Walk backwards to pull out the slack in the straps, bend over and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.
This is an awesome way to get explosive pulling in and simulate Olympic lifts when you can’t do them due to shoulder problems.
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23) Don’t Do Excessively Heavy Weighted Chin Ups- Each year I get more and more down on heavy, weighted chins. They just seem to lead to too many injuries and shoulder problems. In the past I’d had guys do weighted chins for three reps. Nowadays I would never go below a 6RM weight on weighted chins in most cases simply because the injury risk is too high. There’s just too much stress on the shoulder when you’re hanging from the bar with a bunch of plates around your waist.
And from a hypertrophy perspective, most people seem to turn a good lat exercise into a shitty biceps exercise when they start loading chins.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Some people can do weighted chins with no problems. If you can do ten reps with perfect form and a 45 pound plate around your waist more power to you. I’d stick in that rep range and, again, never really go below six reps. If you want to do triples make sure it’s for a multiple sets with a six rep weight.
But if your shoulders are a bit questionable you’re definitely not one of the guys who can or should do weighted chins. You’d be better off keeping the volume up and progressing by adding more total weekly volume over time.
24) Don’t Go Excessively Heavy On Rowing Exercises- All the same things that apply to heavy chins apply to heavy rows, although I think the heavy rows are slightly less dangerous and would be more likely to increase loading on those before chin ups. Over time, however, you will find that a lot really heavy low rep rowing starts to yank away at that shoulder pretty good and can lead to long term damage. Again, best to keep the weights a little lighter and the reps a little higher on these types of exercises. This advice doesn’t necessarily apply to beginners but when you get stronger this is something that you might want to heed.
I prefer to have my guys do their heavy pulling in the form of deadlifts.
25) Do Band Pull Aparts- Simply grab a medium strength band hold it out in front of you and try to rip it apart. Pull it out all the way so that your arms are straight out to your sides (while maintaining a very slight bend in them throughout) like a T and squeeze your shoulder blades together for 30-60 seconds. Hitting a few sets of these to strengthen your upper back and prevent injuries is a great way to finish off your upper body day. Heck, they take so little out of you because there is no eccentric, that they can be done upwards of 5-6 times per week if need be.
26) Don’t Squat With a Low Bar Placement- Low bar squats are great because of certain mechanical advantages they give you. They also put the shoulder under a hell of a lot more stress than high bar squatting does. Stick with high bar squatting or find a comfortable happy medium. But never use an extreme low bar position if you have shoulder problems or want to avoid them in the future.
27) Do Kettlebell Snatches- As I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t think that doing millions of reps per week on this exercise is a good idea as some diehard kettlebell enthusiasts do. But doing a more tolerable number like a few sets of 10-20 reps a couple days per week can be a great shoulder strengthener and help prevent against future injuries.
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I hope you enjoyed the three part series on healthier shoulders and that you will put some of these tips to good use. Let me know if you have any questions or comments below.
As always, thanks for reading.