Have you ever hurt your shoulders weight lifting?
Unfortunately, this is pretty common, especially when the weights start getting heavy on exercises like barbell bench press and military press.
Sometimes it can happen suddenly – like when your form breaks down, or you lose concentration on a heavy set.
However, in many cases, shoulder pain tends to come on more gradually, over a period of weeks or months.
If you’ve experienced a progressively worsening pain or tightness in your shoulders while bench pressing or shoulder pressing, then you’re likely dealing with some form of shoulder impingement – which, left untreated, can threaten to holt your progress in the gym.
This can be a tough issue to fix, requiring time off from the gym, physiotherapy, or even surgery in more severe cases.
Luckily, there is a surprisingly simple exercise that you can do to keep your shoulders healthy and mobile – and in many cases, this alone can help to completely rehabilitate your shoulders when you’re dealing with impingement.
This particular exercise is called ‘Shoulder Dislocations’, but don’t let the name turn you off; you’re not actually dislocating your shoulders here.
Without exaggeration, I would go as far as to say that these are simply the best shoulder mobility exercise that you can be doing.
In this article, I’ll be walking you through exactly how to perform shoulder dislocations, how often and when to do them, and how to progress with them each week as your mobility improves.
What You Need To Do Shoulder Dislocations
You can do shoulder dislocations in a variety of different ways, using one of the following:
- A broomstick
- A piece of PVC pipe
- A resistance band
- A towel
Ideally, though, you want to do these using either a broomstick or a piece of PVC pipe.
Since neither of these will bend, it will make it easier to measure your progress as your shoulder mobility improves.
Many gyms will also have light weight rods that you can use, which are also suitable (provided they aren’t too heavy).
Otherwise, if you aren’t able to get hold of a broomstick or PVC pipe, then resistance bands are the next best option. Since they stretch, it’ll be harder to accurately measure your progress, but you can still use them to perform the basic exercise.
Finally, in a pinch, you can do these using a bath towel; however, make sure that it is sufficiently large, since you’ll need to grip fairly wide when starting out with these.
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How To Do Shoulder Dislocations Properly
This is not a particularly complicated exercise, with only a few basic steps to learn.
Step 1: Get Into Position
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a broomstick or piece of PVC pipe directly in front on your body with a double overhand grip (both palms should be facing towards your thighs).
As I mentioned before, you want to start as wide as possible initially, with the goal of decreasing grip width slightly each time you perform the exercise, as your shoulder mobility improves.
Step 2: Bring The Broomstick/Pipe Over Your Head
With your elbows completely straight, bring the broomstick/pipe up over your head, making sure not to bend your elbows at all as you do this, while keeping a firm grip on the broomstick/pipe throughout.
While you’re doing this, focus on keeping your ribcage down, while squeezing your glutes.
This will feel very difficult at first, and you might experience some mild clicking in your shoulders, but as long as there is no pain then you should continue.
Step 3: Return To The Starting Position
Once the broomstick/pipe is positioned directly behind your body, reverse the movement, continuing to keep your elbows completely straight as you bring the broomstick/pipe back over your head.
You should aim to do 30 reps of this each time, but you can break it into multiple sets if you need to.
I find that doing 10-15 reps per set works well, breaking it up into 2-3 sets.
Here is a video demonstrating how to do shoulder dislocations properly, which I would suggest reviewing several times before you attempt these yourself.
When To Do Shoulder Dislocations
If you’re trying to rehabilitate an existing shoulder injury, I would recommend doing these fairly frequently, at least 3 times per week, but you can do them daily if you have the time.
Alternatively, if you’re not currently dealing with any shoulder pain, but want to keep your shoulders healthy and improve your mobility, I would suggest aiming for 1-2 times per week.
As for when to do these, that is completely up to you, but I wouldn’t do them directly before any heavy pressing exercises, since this will likely detract from your performance.
Instead, I’d recommend doing them directly after your regular weight training workouts or later in the day at home.
I have also found that it is beneficial to do these directly before barbell squats, since it will loosen up your shoulders, making it easier to get the barbell into position. This is especially true for low bar squats, which require greater shoulder mobility.
Making Progress With Shoulder Dislocations
The main goal with shoulder dislocations is to gradually decrease your grip width over time.
Each time you perform the exercise, you should attempt to grip slightly closer than you did the previous time.
As a longer-term goal, having a grip width that is 1.5 times the width of your shoulders is considered excellent (though realistically this can take many months of consistent practice to achieve).
Also, I should mention that you shouldn’t jump right into your closest grip width when you do these.
Just as you wouldn’t lift heavy weights without warming up your muscles properly, you should gradually ease into these – reducing your grip width progressively over the first 5 or so reps, until you are at closest width that you can manage while keeping your elbows straight.
You should then stick with this width for the remaining reps that day, and if possible mark it down on the broomstick/pipe with a piece of electrical tape, so that you can gauge how you’re improving.
The Bottom Line On Shoulder Dislocations
As I hope you’ve gathered, shoulder dislocations are an excellent addition to your current workout routine.
They’ll help to keep your shoulders pain-free, and make you less likely to experience impingement issues from your heavy pressing.
And if you’re currently trying to rehabilitate an existing shoulder injury, I would highly recommend giving these a try. If you experience any pain, simply widen the width of your grip, and try again. However, if you’re in doubt, obviously discuss this with a physiotherapist before attempting them.
Also, I would not recommend doing these right after suddenly hurting your shoulder. In these cases, I would wait around a week before attempting these, making sure to ease into them slowly.
I can tell you that since I started doing these consistently, I haven’t experienced any shoulder pain – even though I am pressing more weight than ever and previously had my share of impingement issues.
What’s more, these have completely healed persistent shoulder issues for a number of my clients, so test them out for yourself and see what you think!
Do you have any questions about shoulder dislocations? Let me know in the comments below.