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Get Ready to Shoulder the Load

Get Ready to Shoulder the Load

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Life is plagued with necessary evils -- taxes, grocery shopping, pretending that you like your girlfriend's brother. Warming up, for most folks, is filed neatly behind writing tax checks in the stuff-we-don't-wanna-do Rolodex.

Truth is, we have to take care of our shoulders if we want them to take care of us. Training is a huge bodily stressor, and without proper care, shoulders are easily injured. It's time to refile our Rolodex and warm-up to counteract the damage.

Goals of a Shoulder Warm-up
Before taking action, let's set a few outcomes. Effective plans require foresight. Here's what we'll achieve:

Increase/Maintain Range of Motion: Our body is a stingy, efficient penny-pincher. If it doesn't need range of motion, it loses it. Energy production comes at a high-cost, so the body doesn't waste energy on what it deems unnecessary. That means if you stop using a range of motion, your brain quickly forgets about it. It stops relaying the message of how to create and control that range of motion to your muscles and peripheral nervous system.

Unfortunately, big ranges of motion accompanied by strength and control are vital for joint health and longevity. We like to think of the bench press as a full range of motion exercise, but in reality it isn't, not when it's compared to the total range of motion the shoulder joints achieve.

To keep our shoulders, and body, healthy and training for the conceivable future, we must train them to move through the full range.

Heat Things Up: Unlike metaphors used in other training contexts, warm-up is to be taken literally. Moving a joint requires the surrounding musculature to do work. This brings blood flow and nervous system activity. Blood and electricity make things hot; this heat, in turn, increases activity of the enzymes that help your body use energy.

Create Shoulder Rhythm: Rhythm is a dancer; Snap! loquaciously told us rhythm's story in 1992, and it's true, especially for the shoulders.

The thoracic spine, shoulder blades and shoulder joints work in metronomic rhythm when creating motion. Destroy shoulder rhythm with dissonance and the beat devolves into weakness and injury.

Maintain rhythm and a song of victory rings: one of strong, healthy shoulders.


Sure, the above three goals are well-and-good, but what action steps attain their results? It's not a complicated process; as the title states, our action is effective and efficient.

Active Range of Motion: Passive flexibility is fine. But if you can't control a range of motion it isn't useful. We'll employ drills that require strength while taking the shoulders through great ranges.

Thoracic spine mobility is also hugely important. The shoulder blades depend on the T-spine for good movement. The shoulder blades, in turn, influence movement at the rest of the shoulders. A mobile T-spine is the crux of great shoulder movement. It's the main beat composing the rhythm.

Stability Exercises: People often confuse stability with strength. The two aren't synonymous. Strength is the ability to exert force; stability is the platform that allows force to be generated. We train stability with conscious effort, but the product is reflexive; the body becomes stable because the brain tells the moving parts what to do, or not do.

Stable shoulders require shoulder blade musculature that fires on time and a rotator cuff that does its job. We'll train stability with two simple exercises.

General Movement Prep: Our charge before starting our main upper-body exercise of the day is to combine our first two warm-up categories into general upper-body movement that prepares us for work. We'll use a few simple upper-body calisthenics to bridge the gap between specific shoulder prep and weighted movement.

The Warm-up




Quadruped T-Spine Rotation 1 8/side
Shoulder Rotations 2 3/each way/side
Turkish Get-up to Hand 1 5/side
Farmer’s Walk 1 30 seconds
Band Pull-Aparts 1 15
Yoga Push-ups 1 8

Exercise Descriptions
Quadruped T-Spine Rotation: Set-up on your hands and knees, then place one hand on the back of your head. From this position, use the muscles of your upper-back to rotate so that your chest faces the side of your up-arm while driving your down arm into the ground. Movement should only take place in your upper-back—your low-back and hips remain still.

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Shoulder Rotations: While standing, start by raising your arm straight out in front of you. Then make a complete rotation, finishing with your hand by returning your hand to your side. After completing that rotation, raise the same arm behind you as far as you can then complete a full rotation, again finishing with your arm at your side.

Turkish Get-up to Hand: Complete the first three steps in a Turkish Get-up. Roll, drive to the elbow, work up to the hand.

Farmer's Walks: Grab two heavy dumbbells or kettlebells, squeeze hard, get tall and walk for thirty seconds. Don't let the weight influence your body's position.

Band Pull-Aparts: Grasp an elastic exercise band in front of you with your arms outstretched and parallel with the ground. Keep your arms straight and squeeze your shoulder blades until the band contacts your chest. Be sure not to shrug. Keep your shoulder blades from elevating.

Yoga Push-ups: Complete a regular push-up by pulling yourself into the bottom position and driving back to the top position. Upon returning to the top position, keep your arms straight and drive your hips into the air—think pike or jack knife.

Warm It Up
Do yourself a favor: remove shoulder warm-ups from the stuff-you-don't-wanna-do Rolodex. Your new, eight-exercise warm-up makes your shoulders feel great and helps keep them healthy through all the raucous training rigors.

How much time do you spend warming up before your workout? Let us know in the comments field below!

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