I recently dropped all pressing work (i.e. bench press and overhead press) from my routine for a while, because I had a nagging pain in my left shoulder that always flared up with heavy pressing movements. This overuse injury was caused by poor form in the past and poor posture overall from sitting at a desk too much without doing anything to counter what it does to your body.
Without much more of a ‘dear diary’ type rant, I’ll just show you the exercises I’ve been doing to help my shoulder specifically to recover. It feels a lot better already and I’ve only been doing this for a couple weeks.
Note: If you have a shoulder injury that you suspect might be more than just a ‘tweak’ or overuse issue that you can fix with some time away from pressing and rehab work, go see a doctor. I’m only giving you advice based on my experience, which is not a severe shoulder injury and I usually feel no pain at all throughout the day. The feeling in my shoulder under anything but heavy loads is what I would describe as ‘tightness’ when going overhead.
With that being said, here is what I do for my shoulders specifically. You should always attack a problem with any body part by looking at the bigger picture (read: your entire body). I.e. if you have tight hips along with the shoulder issues, foam roll and stretch those as well. Your body works together as a unit and should be treated as such.
Daily Stretching and Mobility Work for Shoulders at Home
I do the following every day, regardless of going to the gym. What you’ll need: Lacrosse Balls (preferably 3 and tape 2 of them together with athletic tape) | Jumpstretch Bands | PVC pipe (about 6′ long and about as thick as a broomstick) | Foam Roller (the Rumble Roller and the Grid are both awesome)
I start off with at least 10 minutes of soft tissue work in the form of self myofascial release with a foam roller and lacrosse balls. Then I move on to some dynamic stretch-type movements followed by static stretching.
Pec Minor SMR with Lacrosse Ball
External Rotator, Subscapularis, Tricep, Lat, Thoracic Spine SMR with Lacrosse Ball
Foam Rolling Upper Back, Thoracic Extension on Foam Roller, and a T-Spine Mobility Drill
SMR with Lacrosse Ball for Traps
Paused Overhead Squat with Jumpstretch Band
This one is great for the entire body. It forces good posture (even moreso than the front squat) and it includes a nice demand on shoulder mobility (which is why I’m including it with this article). I pause each rep at the bottom for a 2 count to get some dynamic stretching. I do this at home, so I don’t use weight. Instead I use a jumpstretch band as shown in the video below, a broomstick or a PVC pipe. Any of those will work.
Band Pull Apart
You can also try doing them starting with the stick behind you and holding it with an underhand/supinated grip (the opposite of what’s shown in the video). This is pretty difficult in my experience, so take it easy and hold the stick wide when trying it out.
Another challenging option would be doing them prone on the floor like Elliott Hulse demonstrates below.
Quadruped Thoracic Extension-Rotation
Scapular Wall Slides
Make sure your butt, lower back, upper back and head all touch the wall the entire time. Try to tuck your pelvis under (into a posterior pelvic tilt) and tighten your lower abs to achieve this if you have anterior pelvic tilt to some degree.
Pec Minor Static Stretch
I hold all static stretches for 30-120 seconds (usually closer to 30 seconds, but never less).
This is just one of my favorite pec stretches. You can find a ton of them on YouTube, if you don’t like this one.
External Rotation Stretch
Poor external rotation is the main culprit for my shoulder issue, so this stretch is the worst/best for me.
I use the method with the band to keep my elbows together like in the video below.
But I do the stretch on a bench as follows.
And that’s what I do at home specifically for my shoulders.
At the Gym Shoulder (P)rehab Work
When I’m at the gym, the main difference is that I have access to weights in the form of dumbbells and a barbell, so I utilize those in the following ways.
Pec Mashing with Lacrosse Ball and Barbell
This one is awesome. Tape a lacrosse ball to a barbell and prepare for some discomfort.
You can also use collars on a barbell and do it like this.
Barbell and Lacrosse Ball First Rib Mashing
Shoulder Extension with Barbell and Bands
Barbell Tricep Mashing
Because tight triceps are no good.
You’ll also want to mash the rest of the things you hit with the ‘in home’ portion when you’re at the gym. So lats, subscapularis, etc. just as previously described, because I haven’t found a way to mash those things with a barbell.
Shoulder Prehab Circuits
There are 5 shoulder prehab circuits in the video below. I do one circuit when I’m at the gym. Go to the actual YouTube page for it here to get the full exercise list in the description and also some more shoulder prehab exercises that aren’t shown in that video. (They’re all linked in the description.)
All of the above is what I do for shoulder prehab right now. Once my shoulder mobility is where I want it to be and I can go back to heavy pressing movements, I will use a more abbreviated approach to maintain good shoulder mobility. Maintaining something is usually a lot less time-consuming than changing a pattern that has developed over years of bad habits.
Closing ‘dear diary’ blah blah blah: To really improve your posture, you need to change bad habits. I.e. if you sit on a chair a lot, try to minimize that as much as possible. If you sit at a desk to work, maybe choose to do some mobility work while you watch TV instead of sitting on the couch. Or at least sit on the floor. Focus on good posture and breathing when you walk around. Mobilize and stretch when you get a chance. Use good form on all exercises you do at the gym. Utilize corrective exercises like deadlifts, front squats, etc. and make sure your upper body pulling outweighs your upper body pressing. These are just a few examples of things to improve, if you haven’t already.