RehabilitationTraining (Strength)Shoulder Stabilisers Done Right

Snapshot of Takeaway’s

  • Learn from Pavel: Start with Get Ups
  • Regress to Improve Shoulder Plasticity First
  • Improving Shoulder Stabilisers Improves Upper Body Performance


Why Train them?

You can’t shoot a cannon out of a canoe and you are only as strong as your weakest link. Since Monday is still International Bench Press Day in much of the world, let’s see if your shoulders are healthy enough to maintain continual progress in the king of the dick swinging lifts.

Progression & Why

I had a shoulder injury that deteriorated over 3-4 years. I couldn’t work it out as I was hitting, or at least getting very near to the predictor lifts for structural balance relating to the shoulder girdle.

Then I met Dr Peter Lundgren! What makes Peter so brilliant is he is not only an expert when it comes to fixing injuries but also understands and appreciates the needs of a high level strength athlete. The way he explains things in not only unique but easy to understand.

‘You need to do Get Ups’


He recalled a story after being on a course with Pavel Tsatsouline who put forward that as soon as someone gets a shoulder injury, they immediately think ‘Do External Rotations’. Which is looking at the problem through a straw. Now although I was quite as narrow in my thinking as this, it didn’t occur to me that the plasticity of my shoulder stabilisation had turned to negative.

‘You need to smudge the brain’


Peter’s other specialist area is neurology. He’s an incredibly well read and well-practised man. The easiest way to think about it, is my shoulder was so used to being in a poor position, I constantly recruited this. I need to effectively smudge that area of the brain where the communication had broken down to ensure my shoulder stayed in the optimal position.

I had to learn to walk again before I could run. In the shoulder, partial get ups are akin to walking and external rotations are the equivalent of running. I needed to regress. 1 Step back to make 2 steps forward.


The Partial Get Up

The goal of utilising this movement is to achieve optimal placement of the shoulder within the socket, and to consciously recruit the appropriate motor pattern in doing so. Whilst completing the eccentric portion of the movement, you want to retract your scapula into your spine, think back and down. During the concentric you can relax, allowing the scapula to glide


The Windmill

The Windmill would be a progression on the partial get up but the thought process regarding the scapula during the eccentric is identical. Prepare from some extreme soreness the next day. You’ll feel like you’ve got lower back DOMS where it’s actually QL soreness. I’m not a fan of the full get up from the floor to standing and the Windmill at the end of it (Turkish Get Up). My reasoning is to break things down and use these two movement to work on a specific weakness. This way I can also apply tempo to add further dimensions to the movement. For example try 5 reps on the Windmill at 10-010 or 6 reps with an extra quarter at the bottom.



You could aim for 2 different weight related goals. The first is in relation to your body weight:

  • Partial Get Up: 50% of body weight for 8 reps at 3010
  • Windmill: 40% of body weight for 8 reps at 4010

The second is as a percentage of your Flat Bench Press:

  • Partial Get Up: 25% of Flat Bench Press for 8 reps at 3010
  • Windmill: 20% of Flat Bench Press for 8 reps at 4010

Remember these are guidelines. Don’t be too OCD in your approach and stop benching because your 3.64% away from the necessary target. Are you progressing in your main lift pain free? Don’t stress too much.


How to include in your Training Program

If your results after testing indicate that you’re not even at 5% of bodyweight then you would benefit from a Doublé Protocol. This is where you perform the movement both at the beginning and the end of the session. You benefit from 2 x different rep ranges therefore accessing more fibre and motor units. Also you’re currently as weak as a chess player, so doing them before won’t hamper the rest of the workout.

Alternatively follow the traditional approach of placing them within your assistance work but prioritised & periodised. Here’s an 8 week example for the Windmill:

  • Week 1 & 2: 2 sets x 10-12 reps @ 3010
  • Week 3 & 4: 4 sets x 8 reps @ 4210
  • Week 5 & 6: 3 sets x 8-10 reps @ 3011
  • Week 7 & 8: 4 sets x 6-8 reps @ 4010


What to do after this?

My preference is to now look at Locked Elbow External Rotation next. It’s the weakest point as it’s the furthest away from the body and 99 times out 100, clients are abysmally weak. If execution of technique in these is problematic then revert to end range isometrics.

Then I consider the standardised Structural Balance ratios for the shoulder from Charles Poliquin/Strength Sensei:

  • Unilateral Bent Over Trap 3 Raise: 10.6%
  • Flat Powell Raise: 10.6%
  • Unilateral External Rotation (Elbow on Knee): 9.8%
  • Unilateral Bent Over Lateral Raise (Semi-Supinated): 7.6%

Lastly in the progression, I’d bring in certain Indian club movements. Some of these can be used earlier but many are going to be contraindicated as they’re dynamic and failing the partial get up means your shoulder won’t be in a good position whilst swinging a heavy metal club near your skull.



There is always a progression for exercises, and thus a regression if needed. Too many are training blind and going by feel. I prefer to systemise things to produce results constantly. You need strong stabilisers for most sports and as mentioned, the bench press. Improve these lifts and watch your performance soar indefinitely.


Article written by: Tom Hibbert

Published on: 21/12/2018

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