Horizontal Pulling for Better Shoulder Health

*Updated 4/19/18
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This last weekend I was in Chicago at CrossFit Illumine teaching TMF workshop and in attendance was one of my recent podcast guests, Dr. John Rusin.

John and I on that podcast episode (which you can find here) talked about the importance of horizontal pulling for shoulder health, especially in athletes doing a TON of horizontal pushing (think along the lines of dips, push ups, and benching) and vertical pulling (pull ups anyone?).

I think I know a few athletes who do tons of horizontal pushing and vertical pulling...just a few. Ok a lot.

I am not advocating to reduce the use of those exercises, but what we CAN do is add in more horizontal pulling exercises to sort of 'offset' the effect of those other movements.

Want better shoulder mobility? Download Day 1 of our Shoulder Mobility Program for free:

Shoulder Mechanics when Lifting

When you do vertical pulling and horizontal pushing, you are using big muscles that create internal rotation of the shoulder joint. Internal rotation is a NORMAL range of motion of the shoulder (so don't tell me it is 'bad' because no movement is BAD, but it can be used inappropriately at certain times) but we want to make sure we are staying strong in the muscles that create shoulder external rotation.

This is sort of a catch-22 moment. The reason we DON'T have a ton of horizontal pulling movements is because you can't really put them into a metcon. The closest variant is the ring row and maybe rowing on an erg, but I wouldn't consider either of those as enough.

Easy Exercises to Add In

The exercises we can include easily would be a standing banded row and a bent dumbbell (or KB) row.

These movements won't (for obvious reasons) be done in a metcon. They should be used as accessory training, preferably done in hypertrophy rep ranges.

It's interesting, in most gym settings we do a strength set (3-5 rep range) and we do endurance sets (like 25+). But we neglect the hypertrophy rep ranges (8-15). I guess we think of hypertrophy training as 'bodybuilding' and 'bodybuilding' isn't functional.

You know what is functional? Having muscle mass. You know a good way to get muscle mass? Hypertrophy training.

More and more gyms will be dabbling in hypertrophy training before metcons in my opinion. I think it will be the next wave of training that gyms include. Some of the best exercises to include in this hypertrophy training? Horizontal pulling.

Make sure to watch the video for a full description of the mechanics of the shoulder as well as see the two exercises to include.

John and I also made Build & Condition, a training program that blends hypertrophy training, olympic lifting, and metabolic conditioning.

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