27 Tips for Healthier Shoulders- Part 3

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Training

IF you missed the first two parts of this post check them out at the links below-

Part 1

Part 2

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.

You can order a sled HERE.

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.

For the highest quality, best priced kettlebells on the market click HERE.

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.

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14 Responses to 27 Tips for Healthier Shoulders- Part 3

  1. Robbie March 28, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    Great Stuff Jay,

    My Dad has one really screwed up shoulder from a few crashes during his motorcycle racing days when he was younger. This three part series could not have come at a better time because we just started going to the gym together (I’ve been going since I was 16 and he started last summer) and I can see that his shoulder really gives him a lot of problems. So I printed out this series and handed it to him so he could incorporate a bunch of your tips into his shoulder workouts. I told him who you were and how you have affected my training since I discovered your stuff back in October.

    Thanks for everything and keep giving out the great info. And I plan on becoming a Renegade Inner Circle member before summer, money is tight for a 19 year old kid saving for school haha

  2. Raymond- ZenMyFitness March 28, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Excellent range of tips … I guess I had it all wrong like weight chins and rows .. I thought when does adding weights to these exercises will end?
    Anyhow I’m incorporating some of these into my workout now and hopefully it will allow me to keep on lifting for a very long time to come without all those shoulder problems I’ve been expecting to occur one day.

  3. Gary Deagle March 28, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Hopefully people listen and try some of them out. The suspended dips also feel more bad ass than regular ones.

  4. Will March 28, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Have you got any safety reservations about heavy weighted ring dips, e.g., stick with 8+ reps?

    I think heavy weighted ring dips followed by feet-elevated weighted ring pushups/flyes (sandbags or bands) would be effective for chest/shoulder/tricep strength and size. It emphasises moving the body through space, involves lots of stabilisation and allows a neutral grip. Do you think it’d be more effective than a mixture of flat and incline dumbbell presses?

  5. Chris March 28, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    The knowledge bombs you drop on this site are awesome man.

  6. Brandon Cook March 28, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Ring dips are crazy! That’s one tough exercise. I’ve been doing the band pull aparts a couple sets through out the day. Just working to hit my back with a little more volume than the chest. Facepulls have helped as well. Stretching the pecs seems to add some additional balance to the shoulder capsule too because of overuse and tightness.

  7. Alex March 28, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Great series,Jay!
    Awesome as always!
    I would like to see the same for Hips,could you do that!?!

    thanks and greetz

  8. Abdiel Rodriguez March 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    Jay I would include to your list face pulls with a supinated grip. Great for external rotators and more natural than common external rotation exercises. Also kettlebell high pulls which are more user friendly than snatches (although snatches are still better in my opinion-greater range of motion).

    Great article series!

  9. Rhett March 28, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Thanks again for the list of shoulder strength and stabilization tips/exercises. My shoulder injury wasn’t caused from lifting but from a tackle in rugby. However, I know that my injury could have been avoided if I had better shoulder strength and stability.

    My physical therapist has me working on doing push-ups (knee), dips off a chair, rowing exercises and the band pull aparts right now. I still have 4 months of rehab for a compIete recovery (that’s the goal at least). I look forward to progressing into the exercises you mentioned and now know not to push the weight for row too much.

    How do you feel about inverted row as part of my progression to doing pullups and chinups?

  10. Markos March 29, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    Hi first time here. Great tips for Healthier shoulders and a great web site. I have one question if you can not do Parallel Bar or Gymnastics Rings Dips because of the shoulders what would be the next best exercise?
    Thank you,

  11. thomate March 29, 2011 at 12:30 pm #


  12. Great series of articles. I have found a few tricks to add into my training programs and those of those who I train. Thanks

  13. Chris March 31, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    How about crab walks? Are those a shoulder builder or destroyer? I like doing those on soft sand and up inclines, but I have a friend who is always complaining about that hurting his shoulders.

  14. Phil April 5, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    My first time here as well. Just had a labrum repair surgery 5 weeks ago and am wondering how I need to alter my workouts once I get back to the gym.

    Thanks for the article and series Jay! I’ll be using them as a reference guide for sure.