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Most people don't reach for a shoulder exercise that's actually good for the shoulder until they have a shoulder injury. That's partly because the shoulder is overlooked in terms of 'vanity muscles,' and partly because it's misunderstood anatomically.
A reasonably flexible person can touch the back of his own head with the back of his hand; if our shoulders were built like our hip joints we wouldn't have the fine motor control we do. As a result of this, though, the shoulder is inherently unstable.
Many neck and back problems are really shoulder problems, at least in part.
When we add in the postural problems many of us develop and the injuries we pick up in throwing sports, especially, it's no surprise that injuries involving or originating in the shoulder are so common.
Yet, the exercises that are designed to 'rehab' the shoulder are often ineffective.
There are two major problems with traditional rotator cuff exercises for rehabbing shoulders: they do the wrong thing and they do it badly.
Your rotator cuff is meant to modulate the rotation of your humerus in the glenoid joint; it's meant to reduce movement, for the most part (supraspinatus does do the first few degrees of abduction, yes, but for the most part...).
And traditional rotator cuff exercises don't even produce the results they're supposed to for most people.
They're geared towards people recovering from major traumatic injuries or surgeries, and they work there, but for most of us, we don't have major traumatic injuries; we have complex ongoing overuse, misuse and postural injuries. Again, it's the wrong answer.
So what's the right answer? Well, it isn't to just keep banging away at what you're already doing and hope your arm doesn't fall off.
What's needed is a functional exercise that teaches the shoulder to both move well (mobility) and stay put (stability) at the same time.
Outside the subject of this article, exercises that fit the bill are deadlifts, swings and pull-ups, all of which have reduced shoulder pain in people I've trained with; if you're strong enough, muscle-ups can be a big help too. But if your shoulder is really playing up, maybe you need some TGUs in your diet.
What we're interested in here, though, is the way a Get-Up forces the shoulder to stay both stable and mobile.
A Get-Up will take you from a lying position with your arm extended overhead to a standing position with your arm extended overhead. You won't bend your arm all the way through the movement. So your shoulder will have to remain solid and stable while also accommodating movement, under a load.
That's perfect for improving shoulder function, but the real kicker is what's happening with the other shoulder.
You'll be using your non-weight-bearing arm to drive part of the movement, meaning that you're stretching out your shoulder girdle as you build strength there and more importantly, you're learning to create contraction right through to the floor. There's nothing quite like it for building or rebuilding shoulders.
How do you do a Turkish Get-Up?
Get-Ups happen in stages. Walk through them without a weight first, using this article as a guide, and when you do start using a weight, start with a small one. Pick up one that seems too small, put it down and pick up another, smaller one. Seriously, doing a move like this with a heavy weight is a great way to get a new injury to go with your old ones. Build up to heavier weights slowly; you can do Get-Ups with significantly heavy weights but I wouldn't recommend starting there.