3 Principles for Shoulder Friendly Training

Speaking of injuries, I just tweaked my knee doing 3 reps at 275 lbs of Back Squats. Reps 1 and 2 were awesome, but on the 3rd rep I strained my left patellar tendon. I didn’t hear a pop or anything like that, so I should be back to normal in a week or 2 (hopefully). I used this bag of frozen organic chicken hearts as my ice pack:

Showing my knee some ‘love’ with chicken hearts…

I couldn’t find the bag of frozen edamame that I used when I hurt my hand last time, so the chicken hearts had to suffice.

Now, let’s talk shoulder friendly training.

Proper exercise technique is critical for keeping your shoulders healthy. Especially with all the punishment they take if you train MMA.

If you’ve got shoulder issues, this is what you need to fix them, but the principles below will prevent any issues from getting worse.

Principle #1
– Ensure Proper Scapular Movement

Scapular movement terminology.

Whenever you move your arms, your scapula should move proportionally.

When you do a horizontal push or pull, the scapula should slide together as your hands move towards your body and slide away from each other as your hands move away from your body.

So in a Pushup, the scapula pinch together as you lower yourself and slide away as you push up.

During a vertical push or pull, the scapula should rotate upwards as the hands go away from your body and downwards as the hands move closer towards your body.

In a Pullup, the scapula rotate downwards when you pull yourself to the bar and rotate upwards when you lower down.

One exception to this rule is when you’re lying down on a bench or floor like in a Bench Press – the scapula aren’t free to move properly, so in this case, keep them pinched together to avoid impinging the shoulder and overusing the anterior delts.

Even if you’re just lying on the floor for a Hip Extension exercise where you’re not using your arms, pinch those blades together to reinforce good posture. We need as much of this as we can get.

Principle #2
– Coordinate Breathing to Movement

Breathing is an important consideration to pain-free training as it has a big effect on alignment of your thoracic spine.

Take a second here while you’re reading this and follow along with me…

Breathe all your air out…

Now, take a slow and full deep breath in, then just let it go.



Did you notice that you got taller as you inhaled?

Inhaling helps with thoracic extension.

Most people get breathing during pushing movements correct – you breathe out when you push. Good job, keep doing it this way.

But most people screw up breathing during pulling movements – you should BREATHE IN when you PULL towards your body, so breathe in when pulling the barbell towards your belly in a Bent Over Row, and breathe in while you pull yourself to the bar in a Chinup.

Doing so helps extend your T-spine and allows the scap retractors to properly finish the movement.

If you’ve been doing it the other way (like most stock trainers recommend), start with lower weights and slower tempos to retrain this physiologically correct breathing pattern.

Latissimus DorsiPrinciple #3
– Activate Your Lats

While the lats are often only thought of as pulling muscles for exercises like Rows and Pullups, they are an important shoulder stabilizer, keeping the head of the humerus properly seated in the shoulder joint.

One misconception is that the lats pinch your shoulder blades together – they don’t, because they’re not attached to the shoulder blades at all, as you can see in the image to the right.

To activate your lats when you’re on the ground for a Pushup, doing a Bench Press , or rowing, keep your elbows a little tighter to your sides and think of pulling the head of the humerus into the socket.

During Pullups or Pulldowns, thinking about pulling your hands apart without actually moving your hands, like you’re trying to stretch the bar, gets greater lat activation.

Add these 3 principles to your training and you won’t be damaging your shoulders when you workout.

Now, if you’ve got restricted shoulder movement, you’ll have problems performing many different upper body exercises, so if this is you, I suggest you check out the 6-Step System to Release Your Tight Shoulders here.


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9 years ago

Nice tip the one of stretching the bar while pulling nice im doing the other tip you gave me few months ago the oposite trying to move hands togheter like squezing the bar while benchpressing or doing push ups and it is making a big difference i feel the excercice lot better now im looking forward to use the one for the lats as well!!!

By. The way why did you hurt yourself? You got lot of experience in proper technique what was the problem ? I would like to know so we can learn even more from what happened to you hanks eric seeya broda

9 years ago

Breathe in as you pull into chinup…blew my mind, man.