Training Shoulders




This photo of Chris Sharma is a great example of someone with strong shoulder muscles. You’d be surprised how much your shoulders could be impacting your climbing. For the past couple months, while recovering from an injury, I’ve been doing shoulder training. I’m amazed how much it has improved my climbing and many of the weaknesses that I previously had. 

Training started with some tips Michael O’Rourke provided in an ask an athlete thing on Mad Rock’s page. Since then I have been utilizing new training tips from Josh Villeneuve. Collectively, they have made a nice shoulder training start up. 

Here is what we started with: 

Front raises with dumbbells: Image



You take an appropriate weight. Start small and work your way up. I started at 5lbs, but I’m sure some of you can jump higher to start. Depends where you are. Ideally you’d want the exercise to be a challenge, but not impossible. You want to be aware of your body. If things feel strained, back off and pick a smaller weight. When you get the weight stand straight with your feet shoulder length apart. Put one dumbbell in each hand and hold them in front of you just slightly apart but almost touching like the picture shows. You don’t want them to be touching because it makes it a little easier and isn’t the best form. Slowly raise them until your arms are straight in front making a 90 degree angle with your body. You don’t want to raise them above your shoulders. Then slowly lower them down. You want to do this five times for about three reps. Getting between 3 and 5 is ideal. If you struggle after 3, the weights are challenging enough. If you fail before doing three, switch to a lower weight. If you do five without breaking a sweat, switch to a heavier weight. Take a minute break between each rep. Giving your body time to rest helps it process the work and be most efficient. You want to get those muscles moving and working, not wiped out and defeated. 

The next is side raises with dumbbells: 



Again you want to do between 3 and 5, for three reps with a minute break between. 

The same applies as above for appropriate weight. Stand with a straight torso and the dumbbells at your side, at arms length, with your palms facing you. While keeping your torso straight lift the dumbbells to your side with a slight bend in the elbows and hands tilted forward as if pouring a glass of water. Continue to go up until your arms are parallel to the floor. Exhale as you execute this movement and pause for a second at the top. Lower the dumbbells back to starting pose while inhaling. 

Reverse flys:



Let’s keep the same reps. Try for between 3 and 5, with 3 reps and a minute break between. Again find the right weights like above. Note you may be able to use different weights for each of these. I find there are some I can do with more weight. 

I do these on an inclined bench, but you can do with out like the picture above. 

Lie on an inclined bench with chest and stomach pressed against the incline. Have the dumbbells in each hand with the palms facing each other and a neutral grip. 

Extend the arms in front of you so that they are at a perpendicular angle to the bench. The legs should be stationary while applying pressure to the balls of your toes. 

Maintaining a slight bend in the elbows, move the weights out and away from each other to the side in an arc motion while exhaling. Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together. The arms should be elevated until parallel to the floor. 

Feel the contraction and slowly lower the weights back to starting position while inhaling. 

Chest Press: 



Again 3 to 5, for 3 reps with one minute of break between each. Find the right weight. It may be different. 

Sit down on bench with dumbbells on your lower thigh. Bring weights to shoulders and lie back. Position dumbbells to sides of chest with bent arms under each dumbbell. Press dumbbells up with elbows to sides until arms are extended. Lower weights to sides of upper chest until slight stretch is felt in chest or shoulders. Repeat. They should follow an arc pattern. 

A new thing we have been doing is weighted pull ups. We do this on the hangboard so you can use actual holds, but you could do it on a bar as well. Using your harness, a sling, and weight you can attach the weight to your harness with a sling. Make sure it is secure. You want to again be able to fail after 3 but struggle to make 5. This is a good way to find a weight appropriate for you. 



If you cannot do a pull up or you can’t do three. Try negatives. Get a chair so you can start at the top of the pull up. With weight lower down slowly to the ground. Do these with progressive weight until you can do the right amount of pull ups. You can also train with holding positions. 

Get in the position you’d be for the top of a pull up with weight on and try to hold it for 10 seconds. Making it to 6 seconds and then struggling/failing you probably have the right weight. Failing before 6 seconds, lower it. Making it to 10 seconds effortlessly, add weight. 

Then do this for a mid pull up position. 

Then try it just off the ground. For each of these do three reps with a long break of 8-10 minutes between each. 

Let us know what you think or any suggestions you have for more workouts. 


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