The best shoulder stability exercise you aren't doing - Upright Health

The best shoulder stability exercise you aren’t doing

There are a lot of people out there with painful shoulders searching for that magic shoulder stability exercise. As someone who had his right shoulder constantly sublux (several times a year) throughout college, I understand how annoying and painful shoulder instability is.

It took me a long time to get my right shoulder feeling stable again, and it took me a lot of internet research combined with trial and error. You can relate, right?

I’m always curious about different ways to challenge shoulder stability, so I talked with my friend and fellow trainer Trevor about one of his favorite shoulder stability exercises.

What does Trevor know about shoulder stability exercises?

trevor, personal trainer with an unstable shoulderTrevor’s shoulder got knocked out of place many times playing football in high school and college. The instability got so bad that he ended up getting surgery to repair a torn shoulder labrum.

The surgery, unfortunately, didn’t do anything to improve his shoulder stability. Neither did the P.T. he did after the surgery.

So he spent years just sitting around hoping it would get better.

Eventually he realized that if he just kept waiting around, his shoulder would just stay painful, unstable, and weak. He took it upon himself to learn how to rehab his shoulder.

What’s Trevor’s favorite shoulder stability exercise?

If you ever get the opportunity to watch how Trevor trains, you’ll discover he performs a huge variety of exercises that are extremely challenging for the shoulders. At the time of writing, he’s in the midst of some pretty intense gymnastic rings work in addition to handstand work.

In short, he does a ton of stuff that REALLY challenge his shoulder stability in a lot of different directions.

But when I asked him about one shoulder stability exercise he’d like to share with the world, the kettlebell bottoms up hold was his answer.

So we made a video about it to show you how it’s done (and added a couple variations that you can try as you get more advanced).

What’s so awesome about this exercise?

As with any exercise, the best way to understand it is to try it. You don’t know how hard (or easy) it is to do a handstand if you never try it. Likewise, you have no idea how hard it is to squat properly if you never try to do a squat!

This exercise is great for someone who has already learned some of the fundaments of proper shoulder mechanics. If you have never learned anything about shoulder positioning, then this wouldn’t be a good one to start with. You would want to start with something that requires less attention and control. What specific exercises would really depend on you, but if you need help with retraction, these exercises may help.

If you know how to retract your shoulder blades and know you have the ability to get mostly full range of motion through your shoulder, this is a great exercise to start with a LIGHT weight.

With the bottoms up kettlebell hold, you’re directly challenging hip, abdominal/spine, scapular, and glenohumeral stability. Basically that means you’re forcing EVERYTHING to hold on tight in a well aligned position.

The anterior deltoids, pecs, serratus anterior, and mid and lower traps (and pretty much every other muscle remotely near the shoulder joint) all need to work to stabilize the shoulder in a solid position.

What do you need to pay attention to for this shoulder stability exercise?

In the video we talked about the importance of playing with the hand and arm position once you’ve gotten comfortable with the start position. As you move your arm to point the elbow out to the side, the shoulder joint gets increasingly unstable. You want to be careful as you do this.

People will often start to shrug the shoulder blade up with their levator scapula / upper trapezius to compensate for weak shoulder joint stabilizers. If you shrug up in this exercise, you run the risk of straining your shoulder muscles or even subluxing your damn shoulder!

In short, keep your shoulder blade locked into position and make the smaller shoulder muscles do the heavy lifting/stabilizing!

In closing

If you understand the principles of good shoulder mechanics and know you don’t have severely impeded range of motion in your shoulder, the bottoms up kettlebell hold is a great shoulder stability exercise. It’ll improve shoulder stability and full body coordination in relationship to shoulder activity.

If you ever want to be able to play a dynamic sport again, exercises that challenge you in this way are 100% necessary!

Just ask Trevor.

Right after he’s done on the gymnastics rings.


About the Author

Matt Hsu is a trainer and orthopedic massage therapist. He fought a long battle with chronic pain all over his body and won. He blends the principles he learned in his journey, empirical observations with clients, and relevant research to help others get their lives back.