If you’ve spent any serious time in the gym lifting heavy weights, doing Crossfit, or any gymnastic work, you know how cranky your shoulders can get.
Tight shoulders that are always sore usually comes down to a combination of:
- Lots of pressing/pushing
- A lack of regular mobility work
- Working at a desk/being on your phone (which keeps your arms internally rotated)
It doesn’t matter if you’re just tight and stiff, or if you’ve had shoulder injuries in the past. In this article, we’re going to show you a practical approach to shoulder prehab, so you can take care of your shoulders and protect them for years to come.
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Ouch. Now What?
It’s pretty much a rite of passage for most lifters. You tweak your shoulder doing heavy bench presses, and then your life flashes before your eyes.
Is this it? Will I ever lift heavy again? Am I broken?
While this could be an acute injury of the rotator cuff muscles, many times it’s due to an impingement or tendonitis that develops from repeated strain over time.
Our article on shoulder pain covers this, but in short:
- An impingement occurs when the outer edge of your acromion process (edge of shoulder blade) rubs against your rotator cuff. This is painful and frustrating to deal with.
- Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon in the shoulder area.
Both of these injuries are common for lifters because you do a lot of horizontal or vertical pressing. And you’re probably not doing too much for your shoulders outside of those movements.
Over time, you’re bound to start feeling it in your shoulders unless you’re one of the lucky few who can do anything and never have any issues.
Since you’re reading, we can safely assume you ain’t one of the chosen ones. 😝
With a little bit of Internet research, you’ll read that you need to work those tiny, invisible muscles inside of your shoulders (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) also known as the rotator cuff.
And then you see it… the suggestion for doing lots of band or cable internal and external rotations.
Most of the time, you’ll see these exercises labeled as shoulder rehab or shoulder prehab.
Rehab is short for rehabilitation, which is what you do post-injury. Prehab is short for prehabilitation, and is technically referenced when doing a certain amount of work to strengthen the shoulder prior to having a surgery.
But in this particular case, shoulder prehab is more of a preventative measure to make your shoulders strong and mobile enough to be healthy and robust during your workouts.
The good news is band rotations are great movements for working those unseen muscles and building a healthier set of shoulders.
The bad news is that they’re boring and tend to get overlooked.
Truth be told, we’d love if you did 3 sets of 10 band internal and external rotations every day for life. But let’s face it; You probably won’t.
Instead, we came up with something much better. Not only is it effective and will keep your shoulders strong and healthy, it’s pretty fun.
Not Your Typical Shoulder Pre-Hab Routine
Instead of internal and external rotations, give this short routine Ryan’s doing a try.
Here’s why these movements help keep your shoulders healthy:
- Elbow Rotations: When you push your elbow ditches forward, you’re getting into external rotation, which is good because we spend a lot of time with our shoulders internally rotated. Like when you’re typing on a keyboard, doing push-ups, or overhead pressing with a pronated grip.
- Twisting Bear: Now you’re using some load while moving your shoulders through both internal and external rotation. This is similar to doing the band exercises, but you get to work on your balance and coordination at the same time.
- Basic Crab: With your fingers pointed out away from your body, you’re able to open up the shoulders and chest, which also gets you into external rotation. And as you walk forward, and backward, you’re strengthening your shoulders in this position utilizing a dynamic movement as opposed to static internal and external shoulder rotations.
Finally, when you combine these exercises, you get to build your shoulder strength and health with dynamic movements while also having a little fun with your training.
If Your Shoulders Are Stiff & Sore, What About The Rest Of Your Body?
There’s a good chance your back, hips, and ankles could use some extra help too. If you tried out the routine, you noticed that these prehab movements go beyond just the shoulders.
The Bear and Crab setup has you working on multiple attributes at once: body control, stability, chest, hip, and hamstring flexibility, and balance.
By working on these animal movements, you’re not only bolstering your shoulder health, you’re also moving your body in multiple planes, which carries over to more athleticism.
All of these exercises and more are a part of our Elements program, where we systematically take you through various animal movements to build strength, flexibility, and body control, making you more athletic, and less injury-prone.
Our client Rob was able to use Elements while recovering from shoulder surgery. 👇
I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to complete many of the movements in Elements because I'm rehabbing from a shoulder surgery.
I couldn't have been more wrong!
I've been able to move at my own pace, and ease into the movements a little bit at a time. Working through Elements has helped me develop stability and range of motion with my shoulder that I never thought I'd regain. That confidence is invaluable. When I look back at my first videos compared to where I am now, I can't believe how far I've come.
Another thing I love about Elements is that even though I just wrapped up my second round of Elements and am about to kick off my third, it doesn't get old. I see the way the coaches move in the videos and know that I have SO much more that I can accomplish, and that really excites me.
Healthy Shoulders and Strong a Foundation in the Basics
With Elements, you’ll build a foundation of strength, flexibility, and control that helps improve shoulder health while keeping you agile and athletic.