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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Tag: shoulder exercise

Below are two videos demonstrating some sliding exercises I like to use in training and rehab.  The first video reveals one of my tougher hamstring exercises I prescribe, while the second video displays some shoulder/core stability variations using sliding discs.  I have included links to the PFP columns that better explain the set-up, execution and application for each exercise.

Click here for the Functionally Fit Column on sliding hamstring curls.

Click here for the Functionally Fit column on sliding shoulder raises.

Research along with years of observation has taught me that the brain is inherently looking for the most efficient way (aka least effort) to execute movement in life.  In addition, it HATES pain just like you and I so it does everything possible to avoid it including ordering the body to perform dysfunctional movement patterns.

After a painful episode, the brain often needs reminded that the body can go back to the proper movement patterns once the pain is gone.  However, it often holds that painful memory and may by default lean toward a faulty movement pattern.  This protective mode then ends up perpetuating a faulty movement pattern that is no longer necessary nor efficient.  Over time, dysfunctional movement patterns can create further stress or harm to other segments in the kinetic chain.

So, I am always seeking ways to stimulate the body to work properly and exercises that facilitate proper neuromuscular patterning are instrumental in my rehab and training.  I wanted to share two exercises that I like to utilize in my rehab and training for the shoulder.  In particular, I like to employ closed chain activity to stimulate the serratus anterior as well as the other scapular stabilizers.

Below are two exercises I wrote about in my “Functionally Fit” column for PFP magazine.  The first exercise shows quadruped rocking.  Shirley Sahrmann mentions this in her work, Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes.  I began using it after reading her book, and I agree that it works very well for scapular dysfunction.  Below is the start and finish position for the quadruped version as well as my own advanced tripod version of the exercise.

For a complete explanation of the exercise and its application, click here to read the column.

As a follow-up to this exercise, I included an unstable progression I like to employ using the BOSU trainer.  I call this the unstable tripod scapular clock.  It can be done on the knees or up on the toes.  I have included a quick video on this below. Again, I like this exercise for scapular work as well as core stability training.

Click here to read my PFP column on this exercise for the full description, application and regressions. The real beauty of this last exercise is the “big bang for your buck” attributes since it hits shoulder, core and hip stability all at once for those able to work at that level.  I hope it works as well for you as it has for me!

One of the most common issues I see in the clinic with active exercise enthusiasts between the age of 20 and 55 is shoulder pain. Weightlifting has been popular for ages, but Crossfit is all the rage these days.  Both disciplines involve overhead lifts. The key thing to remember when performing overhead repetitive lifts is how load and stress not only affects strength and power, but how it impacts the joint itself.

Pull-ups and pull-downs are staples for most clients I see.  As a therapist and strength coach, I am always thinking and analyzing how variables such as grip, grip width, arm position, scapular activation, trunk angles etc influence exercise and how force is absorbed by the body.  One such exercise I have spent time studying and tweaking is the lat pull-down.

Consider for a moment how width and grip impacts the relative abduction and horizontal external rotation in the shoulder at the top and bottom of the movement in the pictures below (start and finish positions are vertically oriented):

It should be common knowledge for most, but I will state it for the record anyway – you should NEVER do behind the neck pull-downs.  Beyond the horrible neck position, this places the shoulder in a dangerous position for impingement and excessively stresses the anterior shoulder capsule.  A wider grip (be it with pull-ups, pull downs, push-ups) will always transfer more stress to the shoulder joint because you have a longer lever and greater abduction and horizontal external rotation.

So, what bearing does this have in relation to the rotator cuff and SLAP injuries?  For more information and details on the application of the grip choice, click here to read the full column I did for PFP Magazine this month.  Stay tuned for my next post (a follow-up to this one) one of my Crossfit patients who now only has pain with overhead squats and how my differential diagnosis and rehab has led me to conclude what is wrong with his shoulder.  Keep in mind we must learn to train smarter so we can train harder and longer without pain and injury.  Biomechanics and understanding your own body really does matter.

One of my favorite tools I use in the gym with my clients is the BOSU.  Admittedly, it is really easy to get carried away with various tools and equipment when training clients or ourselves.  But, the BOSU is awesome if you are into building strong stable shoulders and safeguarding them against injury.

Many people focus on open chain (the hand is free in space) shoulder training, but in overhead athletes such as swimmers, volleyball players and throwers, it is essential to build a solid level of scapular strength to absorb force and enable the shoulder to move freely and effectively generate power.

I routinely include BOSU stability work in the following ways:

  1. Dynamic warm-up
  2. Core training
  3. Upper body work & scapular strengthening

One of my favorite exercises is what I term the “BOSU clock.”  I wrote a column on this exact exercise for PFP Magazine a few months back.


Click here to read more and learn how to use this exercise to improve shoulder stability and reduce pain and/or injury risk related to shoulder instability, rotator cuff pathology and muscular imbalances.

This is just one great way to use the BOSU in your training.  If you are interested in getting your very own BOSU, head on over to my OpenSky Shop and check it out –

Ever feel the tightness or ache deep in the shoulder during or after a series of bench press sets?  I must admit I LOVED doing bench press all through college and in my early twenties.  Guys love the chest pump and of course nothing impresses a girl more than broad shoulders, a big chest and beefy arms, right?

Then as I began gaining years of experience as a therapist and started my personal training career, I began to realize a common scenario in men lifting weights regularly.  They had horrible posture, weak posterior chain strength and sore shoulders.  The common thread was this:

  • Bench press and loads of chest exercises 2-3x/week and maybe some occasional back exercises thrown in once per week. 

This repetitive bench pressing, dips and flies created a HUGE imbalance.  Keep in mind for every chest exercise you do, you should balance it with a back exercise.  Some believe the ratio of back to chest exercises should be 3:2, while others suggest 2:1.  Suffice it to say I just believe we need less pressing and flies and more back exercises in general.

The poor weak rotator cuff stands up tall in the teens, twenties and early thirties, but it eventually starts to break down over time.  Aside from modifying range of motion, load and changing arm angles (all things I preach), you must work hard to reverse the effects of gravity by doing more upper/lower back training to prevent the caveman syndrome.

Your long term shoulder health depends on it.  I have rehabbed hundreds of shoulders going through rotator cuff and labral repair that are no doubt in some way related to lifting abuse.  Take my word for it when I tell you backing off the load, volume and frequency of bench pressing will add years of life to your shoulders and prevent you from living on anti-inflammatory medication to make it through the day.  I am not anti-bench per se, but I do believe once per week is more than enough for most of us.

Today, I have included a link to a recent column I wrote for PFP Magazine on one such posterior chain exercise to work the upper back and cuff.  Click here to read the column.

In addition, I added a video of the exercise below.  This is easy to do and will immediately improve shoulder health.  Consider adding it to your gym routine at least 2x/week on upper body days.

In closing today, I want to wish all of my friends, family, subscribers and followers a Happy Holiday Season!