Ask the Doc: The Shoulder Rules

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Ask the Doc: The Shoulder Rules

[F]or most strength and body weight movements these two rules will keep you safe, help you break through plateaus, and likely decrease pain.
The shoulder girdle. It’s complicated. Three true joints, one muscular joint, little inherent stability, much inherent mobility all mixed together with over a billion (I counted) exercises creates a shit storm of pain, injury, confusion and frustration for a whole bunch of people who just want to train or work out.

If you have current shoulder issues, want to prevent future problems or break through a training plateau, I want to lay out two simple concepts that can help you out as you move forward with strength training.  The concepts are simple but the execution is not. I treat some extremely fit and athletic people and most of them struggle with one or both of these rules.

FYI: shoulder blade = scapula


  1. When your elbow is near or moving towards your body, bring your shoulder blade back and down into the “set” position
  2. As your elbow moves out away from your body, provide the force from your shoulder to externally rotate it

Do these two things with any strength lift, bodyweight movement, catch, or sustained position, and you might just stay healthy, perform well and potentially decrease any current shoulder pain with your lifts.

Now let’s dig in deeper to each rule:

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