Back in August 2008, I was being stupid and hurt my right shoulder during a full body workout. I was in a rush, jumped under too much weight and paid for it the following 4-5 months. It wasn’t too much weight as I had been pressing it for some time, I just failed to properly warm up and it did me in.
I woke up Sunday morning, anxious to begin my carb load and all I can think about is my shoulder. It was throbbing! I am scared, worried and pissed off because I never get injured as I have always been very healthy and robust. I maintain good form and (usually)leave my ego at the door. I kept telling myself I am just extra sore from all the pressing I did the day before. Little did I know I was in for a few months of actively fixing my shoulder.
I Suck At Warming Up
I was in a hurry on this lovely Saturday afternoon. I headed into the gym, was pressed for time and needed to knock out a full body routine that included strength + depletion work. I was dieting and had to make sure I primed my body for the carb coma I was inflicting upon myself the following day.
I faked the warm up and got started with the workout. Instead of properly warming up to my work sets, all I did was a few push ups and jumped right under the bar. The funny thing is that I noticed no pain whatsoever during or after my workout but whatever happened wasn’t pretty as the next day my shoulder was screaming at me.
Needless to say, I knew something was wrong. I contemplated going to the Dr. but that would hurt my pride a bit, so I turned to the internet seeking answers and a diagnosis. FYI, the internet is not a good source for medical advice and there are a ton of crazies giving specialized advice that you should NEVER follow. How can someone diagnose you through an article or message board? Okay, I am done with my disclaimer.
I am a fan of Eric Cressey and I knew that he struggled with shoulder problems when he was a younger athlete. Whilst dealing with so many shoulder issues he was actually scheduled for surgery but after lots of research he decided to fix himself. Brave man. I do not blame him as surgery on one of the most complicated joints is a scary thought.
Long story short, he rehabbed himself after after applying tons of research on how to correct his problems. I might add that he is a very respectable power lifter and can move some serious weight for a bodyweight of 165lbs. Here is a video of his 350lb bench press. You would never expect someone this strong to have any kind of shoulder problems.
So his research and discovery gave me the wonderful idea that I could do what he did. My plan was to skip the thought of a Dr. Visit altogether and start rehabilitation on my own, much like Eric did. So I turned to Google and searched for everything I could find on what Eric recommends for correcting a wounded shoulder.
Eric is a very generous person to say the least. After doing all my research and reading his articles I sent him an email telling him about my problem. He asked me a few questions about where the pain was specifically and if any more pain was present during certain movements. Once I responded he gave me a few resources and ideas to fix my problem. He basically pointed me to the articles I had already read and said APPLY them. That is what I did.
Rehabilitation – Do It Right
Looking back, I believe my shoulder pain was a moderate sprain. Thankfully it wasn’t something serious such as a labral tear or shredded rotator cuff. I decided to take the plunge and trust in what Eric was spewing forth.
I did lots of band dislocates, YTWL‘s, scapula push ups, scarecrows, external rotations(really goofy video), face pulls and various rotator cuff work using bands. The Diesel Crew has a ton of good rehab/prehab stuff.
For a period of about 4 months I overfed and used an upper/lower split. On my upper days it was strictly back work and shoulder rehabilitation. No pressing whatsoever. I did attempt to come back a bit too soon though and while attempting bench press for a week, the pain returned. I immediately ditched the pressing(and my ego) again.
On lower days, instead of back squats I did front squats as per Eric’s recommendations. By the end of December my shoulder felt better and I eased back into pressing very slowly. First, I started with barbell overhead presses. While bench and incline still hurt, pressing overhead did not. I was finally getting somewhere.
Soon thereafter, I changed my programming to the MadCow 5X5. I was then able to use the decline press with no pain and finally worked my way back into doing weighted dips and bench presses. My pressing strength is almost back to where it was before all of this mess. Thankfully my shoulders and chest are not as deflated as they were immediately post rehab.
Prehabilitation – Preventative Medicine
I hope you never have to go through what I did. Hopefully you will remain healthy and strong and never experience such a set back. However, chances are good that at some point you will get injured. There is no way around this. Actually there is; forget about training and forever remain skinny and weak. I would rather take my chances and risk a few injuries in the name of looking great naked.
Prehabilitation is all about taking the necessary measures to decrease your risk of injury as much as possible. Now that I am back at it full force, here is a list of what I do regularly to prevent any more shoulder injuries or other mishaps.
Warm up Thoroughly – Before every training session I do lots of foam rolling, stretching and mobility work to ensure I am loose and pliable. I usually try to break a decent sweat as well.
Lots of Band Work – After each upper workout I always finish up with internal and external rotations followed by band dislocates. Sometimes I do scapula push ups and YTWL’s.
Objectivity – I always pay attention to how I feel. If I’m a bit burnt out and feel like extra shoulder work on top of heavy presses/dips would be too much, I omit it for the day. If I feel a bit randy, I will add a more volume. Of course I record my weights to make sure I am progressing but I do not force anything.
I Keep It Real, Yo – I know my limits. I don’t go for PR’s every single workout. I do my best to keep the ego at bay and focus on form. I have no one to impress as I am only competing with myself.
If any of you are battling shoulder issues like I did, I want to first encourage you to see a Dr. If you do not feel it’s necessary, all I ask is that you take enough time to make yourself well again. It’s not going to happen in 2-3 weeks but more like 2-3 months if you do it properly.