Bulletproof Your Shoulders, Pt. 2

This is a continuation of the first Bulletproof Your Shoulders article. You can find the first post here.

The Armbar focused mostly on addressing thoracic spine movement quality. It’s also important to address control and stability of the shoulder blades. Charlie Weingroff, a brilliant Strength Coach and Physical Therapist, states the stability is “the ability of the joint system to control movement in the presence of potential change.” I like this movement because it is done from quadruped (a relatively stable position) and encourages active mobility, not just yanking a joint into a position it can’t obtain without external help.

Quadruped Shoulder Circles

Why it works:  The torso is more supported in a quadruped position than it would be in standing. The core is more stable with extra support from the gound. The more stable the core is, the more mobile the shoulders will be. Although there are always exceptions to the rule, this is a good rule of thumb.

Once in this stable position, the shoulder circles take the shoulder blades throughout entire range of motion. The shoulder blades spend some time in all possible positions(protraction/retraction/elevation/depression, and any combination of those) during these circles.  The body “learns” to use the correct muscles to get into position when we perform these active movements from a stable position. These movement lessons carry over to performance in less stable positions. This leads to better control, stability, and mobility of a joint.

How to do it: 

-Set yourself up on all fours. Your knees should be directly underneath your hips, and your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders.

-Keeping your arms as straight as possible, take your shoulders through circles, both forwards and backwards.

-Make sure to cycle between protracting your shoulder blades (reach hard through the ground) and retracting your shoulder blades (pull them straight back towards the ceiling).

-Do 5 to 10 circles one way, then reverse directions.

-Make sure to limit any movement in your lower back. Some upper back (thoracic spine) movement is fine. I even throw in an upper back extension and flexion at the end of a rotation cycle. Keep your core stiff, as this will help prevent lower back movement.

Here’s a quick video example:

Just like the Kettlebell Armbar, a good time to fit this drill in would be before a training session during the warmup or worked in during your overhead movement practice. I also try and do a couple circles when I have some spare moments during the day. Joint “hygiene” is critical to a healthy, mobile, and strong body. It should not be ignored. Doing a couple circles throughout the day here and there will add up. The “Use it or Lose it” rule applies here as well. The brief window of increased mobility that has opened up will disappear if the new range of motion is not trained. As always, if you have pain or discomfort performing these movements, make sure you consult with the appropriate professional.

These last two posts hopefully have given you some new movements or ideas to play with in regards to your shoulder function. Play with them and see what works. Let me know what you think!



I got the idea of this movement from a Max Shank, a coach in California. He does some pretty cool stuff. Here is a video where he does a similar movement, but incorporates some wrist mobility elements as well. Check it out.

Keep an eye out for a “Kettlebells for Climbers” PDF program on the Power Company Climbing website. We’re going through some of the final touches and it should be up soon!