I am happy to say that my left shoulder, which was giving me problems a while back, is now consistently pain free. I wrote a post about the steps I took to get it better, which can be found HERE.
However, once the pain went away, I knew that I was not out of the clear. I knew that I had to continue hammering soft-tissue work, corrective work, and staying away from certain things that aggravate it.
Unfortunately, this is a problem I see a lot of people make. They want to work extremely hard to get rid of their pain, but once it is gone, they are lazy about keeping up with the maintenance work to keep them healthy. For example, a lot of people come to IFAST to better an injury that they have. I am happy to say that we have been very successful helping these people, but so many times they want to leave once they are out of pain only to come back to us later because the injury/pain is back.
So, today I want to give you a great bang for your buck exercise that I have been using to keep my shoulder healthy as well as other maintenance work I have been doing. I hope some of the examples will give you ideas for your prehab toolkit.
1. Lacrosse ball to the posterior shoulder musculature daily
I am willing to bet most readers will find a nasty spot in this area if they take the time to dig around. Simply place a lacrosse ball or tennis ball between the wall and the back of your shoulder and roll it around. I would start with the ball on the shoulder blade and work over it and then move to the area between the shoulder blade and the shoulder.
This area often gets overworked due to poor rowing and chinning, as well as poor posture.
2. PVC pipe to the lat muscle daily
This is another area that I neglected for a long time, but the first time I rolled my lats it was awful so I knew I needed it. You can simply use a foam roller or even a lacrosse/tennis ball if you want/need to get more focal.
The lat is another muscle that I feel is overused when rowing. Yes, you want to use your lat during the movement, but you also want to use your scapular retractors to prevent an anterior glide of the humerus.
Also, many coaches seem to be huge fans of chins and pull-ups these days, and while I mostly agree, the lat can definitely get beat up from those exercises.
3. Performing Forearm Wall Slides as a filler or in my warm-up
I have continued to use this in my warm-up to activate my serratus anterior. I like that this exercise addresses both functions of the serratus: protraction and upward rotation. I also shake like a little girl while performing it so I know it is working. 🙂
4. Performing a Kettlebell Armbar
I love this exercise! I would recommend it to anyone who has the requisite mobility.
It is great for shoulder stability! I will write up a post soon about how to perform the exercise along with things I look for when coaching it.
5. Performing a Half Kneeling Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press (HK BU Press)
I really like this exercise, and it is one that I have started to program for some of my clients as well. Here are a few of reasons I am a big fan of this exercise:
1. It puts you in a half kneeling position, which is a great way to work on lumbo-pelvic stability.
You can easily feel if you are arching, and therefore, dissociating the rib cage from the pelvis to
get the weight up.
2. It is very difficult to compensate and side bend to press the weight overhead in a half kneeling
position, which is very common in a one arm standing press.
3. I like to place the bell bottoms up to work on shoulder stability. Bottoms up will light up your
4. It is much more difficult to cheat the weight up. You must have good joint alignment to
press a big weight in this position.
I should also mention that you need to make sure you have the mobility necessary to press a weight overhead before trying this exercise.
6. Favoring pulling exercises over pushing exercises
I mainly do this by including a lot of pulling exercises on my active recovery days. On active recovery days, I go into the gym and perform a circuit of mobility drills and some lightweight movements. In these circuits, I usually have multiple pulling exercises but usually only one or two pushing movements (usually a half kneeling bottoms up press). This helps me to place a slightly greater emphasis on pulling exercises throughout the week because my main strength days are closer to a 1:1 ratio.
So, this post was meant to encourage you to always keep up with your maintenance work – do not let an old injury come back! I also wanted to share with you the awesomeness that is the HK BU Press! Try it out and let me know what you think.
I also wanted to mention that if you want to learn more about preventing, rehabbing, and/or training around shoulder injuries then I highly recommend Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold’s Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD. It is full of very useful and practical information.
Have a great week everyone!
2 thoughts on “The Importance of Recovery Work AND an Awesome Exercise to Try”
Nice work Zach, points 4/5 were two things I have personally not seen before so thanks for introducing them!, if you have a rumble roller that is great for working the lats as a PVC pipe can sometime slip and the rumble roller allows you to pin a certain spot then move your arm or torso around.
I would say point 6 is one that cannot be overstated in some ways, I had a guy come in the other day and after a brief chat about his routine/sets I found out he did 24 sets of pressing, but only 6 sets of pulling per week in the gym!
All the best
Thanks for the comment, Ed. I have never tried the rumble roller on my lat – I will have to try that.