Thursday, September 10, 2009

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Cure for Weak Shoulders!

Shoulders & hips is what I spend 90% of my time working on with regards to the athlete training I do. The reason for this is because science has shown that most shoulder injuries stem from a deficiency somewhere in the hip cuff & vise-versa. Because of the dynamic nature of most field, court, mat & ice sports, athletes are encouraged to spend more time strengthening & stabilizing their shoulders & hips. Injuries come because the athletes either have tight hips (psoas, groin, spinal erectors & glutes) or tight or weak shoulders (rotators, rear delts, upper lats, rhomboids, traps & pecks). Now its important for one to know that deficiency in one area can lead to improper muscle activation (inter-musculature coordination), improper muscle timing or firing patterns (intra-musculature coordination), and ultimately overall movement dysfunction, leading to everyone's worst fear which is injury. Because of this I have tried to do my part in assuring our athletes that their hips &  shoulders would be strong & mobile enough to handle the most demanding movements at the most demanding speeds.

I have here what I like to call the "OPENERS". This a 3 part series of exercises sure to alleviate shoulder weakness, stiffness & pain.

Allow me to use a football analogy here. Popular football coaching these days shows a commonality with regards to how football teams begin their games. Most coaches will use a script of plays that are set in stone based on the game plan for the specific team they are playing that week. These coaches factor in the other teams tendencies and come up with a script of anywhere from 10 - 15 plays they will run in succession with no variation. We in like manner have adopted a similar approach for our athletes regarding shoulders & hips. In this post we will simply discuss the shoulders. These openers are a scripted grouping of exercises that the athletes will follow each workout to combat the opposing team, which in this case happens to be injury.

This is to be completed after a basic general warm-up usually involving a 3-5 minute jog or bike/elliptical.

1) Plank Trio:

  • Regular plank (holding good posture with no dip or bend in the hips. elbows should be comfortably located directly under the shoulders).
  • Strait arm plank (same as above just done with full extension of the arms)
  • Isometric plank hold (done same as above with the exception that the athlete will lower his/her body holding a 1/2 push position for anywhere from 3-5 seconds)
The entire sequence is to be done with no rest for anywhere up to 2 minutes based on strength of athlete.

2) YTWL:

  • Done lying prone on an incline bench or over a physio-ball for the more advanced athlete.

  • I usually do these without weight. You will see why in a minute.
Then for your first exercise of the day do this:

3) Dumbbell Medley- with light DB's perform 1 round of this medley:

db upright row x 8-10
db curl w/ press x 8-10
db bent over row x 8-10
db squat w/ press x 8-10

db lateral raise x 8-10

*Adding weight to the YTWL'S can be a beginner substitute for this.

* After 1 round of this proceed with the remainder of your workout.

 **Try this pre-workout sequence prior to each upper body workout and then "Medley" only as a finisher on your lower body days.

Quick Notes:

This is intended to help assist in the health of the shoulder. If you are performing highly intensive shoulder work already such as barbell push-press, snatches, clean & jerk or any other form of strenuous work, be cautious about over training the shoulders.

Range of motion for these exercises should be FULL.  However, this can be a goal of yours that you work towards with each workout. So take your time and exercise as much caution as necessary.

Stretching & performing mobility drills for the shoulders is very important. Please make sure you are adding in pre & post workout mobility exercises such as (band dislocations, band lat traction, rear delt stretches as well as stretches for the pecks, bi's & tri's.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I recently submitted a question to my good friend Bob who works for Elite Fitness Systems. The question is in regard to in-season training regarding Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program (which Key2 Sports reccommends highly for both athletes and anyone else looking to get in shape).

Here was the exchange:


I should probably be asking Jim Wendler this question but because of the fact that you are coaching football players i'm submitting it to you.

Do you recommend a modified 5/3/1 for in-season athletes? The reason i'm asking is because this program already has set percentages that are lower than the lifter's maximum weights. I actually see it as a perfect fit but my hang up comes in the deadlift & military press category. I personally know how damaging pulling is to my CNS, so I personally would take them out for our athletes and focus on free squats & box squat mini-cycles. Thoughts? The other hang up is with the military press. IMO we have the same issue here with the added pressure of risking overuse on the shoulders. My thoughts here were to mix in incline presses as a substitute, so the mini-cycles would involve flat bench & incline bench. Lastly, the percentages for each cycle begin at 65% according to Jim's plan. What is your starting suggestion for percentages? My personal thoughts were 55% - 75% or 80% depending on the day. BTW this is concerning kids WHO PLAY, for the kids who don't we're not changing the original program.

Even more specifically, we're using a mix between 1) I'm not doing Jack
2) the Triumvirate &
3) body weight

This is for all players whether they play or not. Thoughts?

I know you like articulation so I believe I have given you a platform to express your expertise in this area my friend. Thanks for your input. -Cornell


What's up, my man? I'll address this first by directing you to a post I saw from Jim on the subject:

Now, since Jim recommends something you have a bit of a hang-up with, I'll tell you what I've told you several times now. And remember, I'm not telling you this to be obnoxious or to tell you anything you don't already know. The purpose of this is to help other coaches who have the exact same question this time of year.

Cornell, you, especially, were a damned good football player. Use your experience here. When I did this, I found that things work better when we keep it to benching and squatting - with no overhead work done during the season. Now, where this confuses me is in the individualization of things, because, like some people, I've found that the more overhead work I do, the better my shoulders feel. I've heard Jim say the same thing.

Then again, I'm no longer playing football (except when I'm drunk in Vegas and rambling on and on about it), so the same level of collateral damage no longer exists.

What I've found to work is squatting and benching to about 70-75%, doing maintenance work for assistance stuff, then getting the hell out. Seriously? If I were still playing, my lower body workout would look like this:

1. Warm-up including foam roller and LIGHT sled dragging

2. Box Squats (possibly even above parallel): MAYBE work up to 75% x 3

3. GHR or 45-degree back: 3x10

4. Ab circuit

5. Stretch

This whole thing should take a half hour or less. Same goes for the upper body:

1. Warm-up including foam roller and LIGHT sled dragging.

2. Bench Press: MAYBE work up to 75-80% x 3

3. Banded Pushdowns: maybe 30-40 total reps

4. Pull-ups

5. Some quick neck and shoulder work, including shrugs, followed by some shoulder horn-type stuff, and that's it.

I would end up waving the percentages, but this is about the only work I've personally found to not f--k up our practices.