Posted September 26, 2019

Levelling Up Your Shoulder Health Exercises with a Simple Addition

The idea of isolated shoulder rehab or stability exercises is such a boring use of time that I would rather mow my lawn with a pair of safety scissors we used to use in kindergarten. I’m yawning just thinking of all of those standing cable or band external rotation drills.


That being said, they do have value in re-training strength in muscles that may need a higher level of control and safe environments following previous injury or trauma, so jumping right into the hyper aggressive weight lifting or putting someone into a risky situation they haven’t trained into properly isn’t something I would recommend either, so what can we do? Be basic bored and benign, or shake things up a bit and put some risk into the world without causing undue harm to the person entrusting us to the health of their shoulders?

The cool thing is there doesn’t have to be a dichotomy between sexy and exciting and effective, we just need to expand the availability of our options during the training scenario to include some additional fun stuff that can have a direct impact on the exercise we’re doing without running a higher risk of injury or irritation. Which leads me into the main purpose of this post: showing an easy and effective way of improving RC specific work.


Much like Ricky Bobby during interviews, when doing isolated shoulder work I don’t know what to do with my hands, specifically the one not engaged in the unilateral activity.


Do I put that other hand on my hip like a saucy tea pot? Make a fist? Wave?


Putting the other hand to use can have some significant benefits additional to reducing the feeling of being incredibly awkward. Krause et al (2018) found that changing body posture from standing to side lying reduced the muscle EMG activity of the infraspinatus and middle trap during external rotation exercises, but moving into a side plank with the weight supported on the non-exercising arm increased muscle activity in the exercising muscles significantly over the other two positions. There was also an increased activity in the internal and external obliques and multifidi muscles on both the dominant and non-dominant side.


This seems to piggy-back on a concept first discovered at the turn of the 20th century called irradiation. Sherrington posited in his 1906 work The Integrative Action of the Nervous System that development of central tension and increased muscle activity causes a downstream effect of increasing tension and activity in distal segments, while also producing increased activity in bilateral segments when unilateral ones were stimulated. This means if I tense up my right arm under some kind of loading scenario, I’ll have an increased drive through the left side, a concept consistently used in rehab settings known as Neural Crossover Training when you train one arm to see benefits in the injured arm that’s unable to be trained.


All this is to say, loading up the non-working side in some type of activity that requires tension and stabilization, and it produces better results in the working side, while also adding some level of interest and excitement to the training program compared to no using it. Better results and you enjoy the process? That’s a hard win for everyone.


So let’s go through a few scenarios on how we could get this concept to work for us in a shoulder health and rehab setting while still getting a global training effect that will make you want to scream “SHAKE AND BAKE” at the top of your lungs.


Side plank Options:


Band side plank ER – can be done with a light plate too if you don’t want to get tied in a band


Side Plank Horizontal Press


Side plank row


Side plank screw driver – bottoms up option for extra baller credit


Side plank overhead press



Standing/kneeling options:


Suitcase hold band ER


Tall kneeling suitcase 90 90 hold


Tall Kneeling Rack hold horizontal press


Tall kneeling rack hold landmine press


Suitcase band row



These options and many more will allow you to still train shoulder isolational strength and control, while also upping the challenge and emotional investment in the exercise, plus they look wicked to do in a gym.


These ideas come from the “Even More Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint,” a video continuing education series from Dean Somerset and Tony Gentilcore, building on the successful level 1 content released in 2016.


  • Full assessment of upper body movement, plus breakouts on how to address any specific limitations
  • Shoulder stability training beyond isolational movements or segments
  • advanced coaching for thoracic mobility, breathing mobility and directly impacting shoulder mobility as a result of these
  • mastering your bench press set up
  • foot, ankle and knee influence over hip function, assessment and troubleshooting on all of these
  • perfecting your squat set up based on your anatomical limits.
  • Total body tension considerations for maximal lifts
  • programming for various considerations, plus overlying themes and strategies to build the best programs for your clients


This series is in sale until September 29 2019 for $70 off the regular price, with an option to pick up both the level 1 and level 2 content for $100 off the regular price too. Just click the link to learn more and to get your copy today.

Click HERE for more info and to get your copy today!