Workout Tips

How to Keep Your Shoulders Healthy and Pain-Free at Any Age

This practical solution to a common age-related issue will keep you in your prime at any age.

Athletic Man Doing Resistance Band Pull-apart
Per Bernal

The Problem

Chest and delt training are wrecking your shoulder joints, but you still want to be able to press decent weight without going under the knife.

The Solution

If your shoulders are killing you, go see an orthopedic doctor and have him or her rule out surgery (hopefully). Then start addressing the problem instead of ignoring it. Trainer Craig Hysell offers these simple strategies:

Prehad With Bands: 

The opposite of rehab, the goal here is to prevent a serious injury before it occurs. Hysell is big on elastic band moves to isolate, strengthen, and prime the muscles surrounding the shoulders—particularly on the often neglected posterior side.

The best time to prehab is during your warmup. One of Hysell’s favorite prehab moves is the band pull-apart (shown below). Three times a week, perform two to three sets of 20 to 30 reps of them. Face-pulls with either bands or cables are another great prehab move.

Do Mobility Work: 

Tight shoulders are injury-prone shoulders. Being flexible is important, but true mobility involves being strong, balanced, and stable through the entire range of motion. Hysell suggests doing shoulder-mobility work three times a week, utilizing a multiplane routine like Kelly Starrett’s Simple Five Way Shoulder.

Take a barbell hiatus: 

Barbell presses lock your forearms into a pronated position, which can lead to shoulder-joint stress. To relieve the strain, temporarily nix barbell presses from your training. Use only dumbbells for chest and shoulder work, and perform chinups rather than pullups. Also, use lighter weights at higher reps to build stability and muscle. “Try it for two months,” Hysell suggests. “You’ll feel better.”

The Exercise Above: Band pull-apart

How to: Grab a band with a shoulder-width grip. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull until arms form a T.

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