How to improve fragile shoulders? How to improve fragile shoulders?

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Thread: How to improve fragile shoulders?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2020
    Location
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Posts
    13

    Default How to improve fragile shoulders?

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    I'm officially the strongest I've ever been, and am still slowly improving, but with past injuries my shoulders feel fragile, like lifting in a different position would be a lot weaker/risk serious injury. I'd prefer to build a broader strength, like I feel with my back/legs.

    My stats:
    50 years old, height 1.8m, weight 105kg, 3-4 years experience with strength training over the last 6 years.
    PRs - Squat 165kgx5, DL 192.5kgx5, Bench 97kgx5, Press 73kgx1x5, BW Chins 4-5

    Current program:
    Pulls 2x/week: H Squat 4x5s + PCleans 3x8; M Squat 4x5s + Halting/Pin Deadlift 1x5.
    Press 4x/week,: Vol Bench 5x5 + LTEs 3x12; Vol Press 5x5 + Ass Chins 5x8; Pin Press 3x3 + Ass Chins 5x8; Int Press 5x1 + Int Bench 1x5.
    Aerobic is 12% incline treadmill at 6km/hr, HIT 100s on, 20off for 24mins or 6% incline at 6km/hr for 30mins 2x/week. I've decided running is no longer necessary for my wellbeing.

    Injury history:
    2016 pinched a nerve in left neck/shoulder that mostly paralysed my tricep (>90% loss of strength). Heavy meds and 6 months stand down before physio started, another 3 months before returning to the gym at about 2/3 strength. Fairly rapid recovery to 90%, very slow after that.
    2020 during Covid lockdown, attempting a pike press resulted in left arm collapsing and catching myself with my right, the jolt tearing my right supraspinatus tendon. fMRI revealed tear didn't quite warrant surgery, so physio and about 5 months before I was cleared to resume training, by which time I'd acquired a home gym.

    I've only recently been able to start from scratch with power cleans as the jolt was too painful, was on Barbell rows initially. I tried dips last week and managed 2 before pain in my left shoulder stopped me, but even that is an improvement on a few months back when I couldn't manage 1. I've added another pulley/rope to my lat/row station on my rack for assisted chins, trying to come up with a plan to do the same with the dip but that is a bit tougher.

    I'm somewhat sceptical that the lightweight phyio exercises from early rehab would help much so was wondering if any other assistance exercises might help, such as incline/decline bench variants or careful dumbbell exercises. Reading through the forums I haven't seen this specific question explored much.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    New York, NY
    Posts
    625

    Default

    There is a lot of information here, but I'm not seeing much on what the actual problem is aside from your "feeling" that you are weaker. Are you stalling in any lifts? Do videos of your lifts indicate a significant asymmetry or lack of control?
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2020
    Location
    Auckland, New Zealand
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    Default

    I notice the weakness/pain outside of lifting more than in it. My main lifts are adequate now, although without access to a starting strength coach I'm effectively self-guided from the book and videos my form won't be winning any awards. I miss the occasional heavy single press if I let my form slip, or the last rep of intensity bench which is expected as the weight keeps going up and I drop from 5s to triples. Obviously when I resumed lifting after my rotator cuff injury I was a lot shakier, and missed reps a few times when my right shoulder fatigued faster than I anticipated. Ironically my arms were more balanced than in a long while with both shoulders now having been injured.

    Now that I've been back in training for coming up on a year my right shoulder is again stronger than my left, but not in all directions. In press they are fairly even, although the left side will be the one to fatigue first. In bench it is much more obvious, with my final heavy reps tending to straighten the left arm ahead of the right. But if I'm pushing back behind me, like pushing off a wall or rolling over/getting up out of bed, my left side is stronger although both feel compromised compared to before injury.

    On both shoulders I have lost range of motion behind my back, with pain at the front my shoulders if I try to push my hand up behind my back. Before my injuries I used to be able to touch fingers behind my back with one arm high, one low. After my pinched nerve on my left shoulder I lost the ability to do that with my left arm low, although I partially improved over the years to the point where I could used a rope and walk my fingers together. After my injury attempting a pike press last year I couldn't even place my right arm behind my back unassisted. Eventually I could but couldn't move it away behind my back. After physio this improved, but there is still significant loss of range of motion and weakness here compared to my left. And I can't touch fingers with either side low now. If I tuck my left hand up behind my back, keeping wrist straight, the top of my fingers is roughly level with my nipples. My right hand can only make about 4 inches below that.

    So that is what I mean by fragility. I feel like lifting has improved the strength in my shoulders, but that it is somewhat limited to the fairly specific movement pattern of the press/bench. Other orientations feel noticeably weaker, sometimes painful, such that even lightish loads may result in failure and/or injury. From my understanding tendon tears don't so much heal as grow around the tear, so it is possible that certain geometries highlight the fault more than others, which is what I'm trying to address.

    If I contrast that with my back/legs. Obviously I'm weaker in awkward positions but it doesn't feel like my strength will collapse suddenly so I feel comfortable picking up heavy, unbalanced loads like lifting a concrete mixer down from a 3ft ledge. Something I wouldn't have attempted before taking up training. Whereas reaching awkwardly, even with light loads, will now frequently trigger discomfort/weakness in my shoulder that I don't recall happing prior to injury.

    Hence my question about whether ancillary pressing exercises in different orientations might be useful for a more comprehensive rehabilitation of my shoulder. Or is it a limitation I'm just going to have to learn to live with and stick with the main lifts for what progress I can achieve?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    New York, NY
    Posts
    625

    Default

    It doesn't seem like the imbalances are affecting your lifting much. That being said, I have worked with PTs who gave unilateral exercises as a way to balance out L-R imbalances after surgeries, so that is an option if you want to address these subtleties. I would start with a consult from one of the SSCs who are also PTs so they can guide you in the right direction: D'Agostino/Petrizzo/Alter/Morris, etc.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Posts
    65

    Default

    The only way to improve shoulders is press+chin ups. That combination works wonders.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2021
    Location
    Maine
    Posts
    3

    Default

    I have similar shoulder stability issues. Weird light movements you wouldn't expect to but they hurt or feel week. Now in my 30ís, Iíve always had a propensity to injure either shoulder. Rough-housing my brother in my early teens and my shoulder felt like it popped out and went back in. Then mid teens jumping up once to catch a football, reaching way up at the same time someone next to me bumped my arm rather gently, felt like it popped out and went back in. Was never real athletic, did some half-brained home strength training from about age 17 to mid 20ís. Been attempting consistent LP with the SS method since about 06/2020. In early 2021 I was moving some tool boxes around, pulled hard with my Rt arm, sort of pulling it up and across in front of me (yanked hard hurrying too much) and it felt like my shoulder popped out. MRI showed fraying of the leading edge of the supraspinatus tendon and ďsevere thickening and scarring of the anterior edge of the labrumĒ as well as a minor tear and some fraying at the top edge of it.
    Orthopedic dr and PT told me that along with random genetic propensities for weak shoulders sometimes people somehow learn to move their arms wrong and not engage the rotator cuff properly (?) makes some sense I guess as Iíve always had the weird instability with random movements. Along with physio exercises PT taught me about thinking about keeping good tension in the rotator as I move it and do things. Also told me not to overdo stretching as I had stretched my shoulder joints as far as theyíd go for years thinking I was helping them.
    Anyway. Im a couple months back into LP and finding doing a few of the physio exercises every time Iím in the gym is helping. Maybe not so much strengthening as it is warming things up so I move them right and don't re-injure anything. Along with the basic band warm-ups I found slow gentle push ups and pull ups have helped things stay stable.
    Also I had to really watch out that I don't sleep wrong, Iíll often end up on my side or stomach with an arm wrenched way up under my head. For me that aggravates the rotators.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Costa Mesa, CA
    Posts
    205

    Default

    starting strength coach development program
    You can fix your "weak" shoulders with heavy pressing. Three sets of 5, go up in weight each time. You will be shocked.

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