Stabilising Your Shoulders
The shoulders are probably known as the main culprit when it comes to poor posture. Hours of being sat at a desk staring at screen all day tends to put us in a weird hunched over position, rounding our shoulders and potentially leading to back and neck pain. Couple that with loads of pressing motions in the gym and you may find that your shoulders are causing you a little bit of discomfort.
Many of the smaller muscles in the upper back are often overlooked in our training, as we tend to prioritise the larger muscles like the lats for example. However, by focusing on strengthening and stabilising the smaller muscles of the rotator cuff and upper/mid back, you can not only correct your posture but keep your shoulders healthy when it comes to moving weight in the gym. Here are a few simple exercises you can do with resistance bands and a kettlebell for either rehabilitation or simply warming up before your pressing.
Banded Pull Aparts
Banded Pull Aparts are one of the best exercises for the upper back and rotator cuff muscles. It’s great for your posture as it promotes the direct opposite of being rounded or hunched over. You’re effectively opening up your chest, whilst contracting all the muscles in the back that pull your shoulder blades back and down (retraction and depression). When performing the movement, think about squeezing your shoulder blades together whilst separating the band and pulling back. Make sure you’ve got suitable tension all the way through, and you’ll really feel it.
Intensifier: To make the movement harder simply use a thicker band or remove some of the slack in the band by making it a bit smaller, or even try doubling it over.
Inverted/Upside down Kettlebell Press
The Inverted Kettlebell Press may look strange at first, but it is one of the most humbling and effective shoulder stability exercises around. Placing the kettlebell upside down totally offsets the weight, meaning the smaller stabiliser muscles deep within your shoulder have to really help out to stabilise and stop the kettlebell from tipping. Start light with this one to master the movement, don’t flare your elbow out but keep it tucked in at more of a 30/45-degree angle and slowly press it over head. The main thing on this one is control, and you should feel a nice burning sensation deep within the shoulder girdle letting you know that everything is firing!
Intensifier: An obvious progression here would be to increase the weight of the kettlebell or simply add more reps. If you want a slightly different core challenge too maybe try the kneeling, standing, or sitting on the floor variants.
Banded External Rotation
Banded External Rotation is great for the posterior rotator cuff muscles (mainly infraspinatus) and plays a big part on stabilising the shoulder. It’s an amazing rehab movement and can act as a great warmup before exercises like bench pressing etc. The key points here are to keep the upper arm fixed to your torso, move in an external or outwardly rotated position, and to use either a neutral or supinated (palms facing up) grip. The movement can be done in many ways, from the simple method with a single band shown here (which works both sides at once), to using a band wrapped around an upright, or even an adjustable cable pulley at elbow height.
Intensifier: Again, an intensified method would be to increase the weight of the band or cable pulley, or to perform more reps.
Hopefully you can implement some of if not all these simple movements into you weekly training and watch your posture and overall shoulder health improve.