Written by Mark Kislich, an Olympic Performance Coach and Judoka.
What’s versatile is fragile. And the glenohumeral joint or shoulder is very versatile.
Small wonder that many grapplers have problems with it: wrestlers, BJJ and especially Judo
So it pays to injury-proof our shoulders as much as humanly possible. That also has the
beneficial side effect of improved performance: your pulls in Judo for example will be that much
Now let’s dive right into the three best ways to injury proof the shoulder for grapplers.
We’re talking very specific stretches here, to keep the joint nice and flexible and pain-free. It’s
important to keep full range of motion for internal as well as external rotation. Also you want to
keep the pecs and the upper back – the lats – nice and long and smooth. Below is a video where
I demonstrate some specific shoulder stretches that can make one heck of a difference for you!
But. You gotta do this right. Because presses strengthen the shoulders, and pulls/chins
strengthen the shoulders, but they will not balance the shoulder, nor make it nice
Most believe that if you combine pressing/pushing exercises with pulling/rowing exercises you’ll
balance things nicely. After all these are opposite movement patterns, right? Not so. They
are opposite, but both these patterns are internal rotation.
Or let me put it this way: the prime movers of these movements, the pecs and the lats, are both
internal rotators. So if all you do is these types of lifts, short before long your shoulders will be
internally rotated, and you’ll look like the hunchback of Notre Dame….pain is not far down the
road from there!
So what I recommend is that you add some shoulder stability exercises after your
main workout. Say you did some chins and dumbbell presses. Now it’s time to balance things
out for a bit with something like Joe DeFranco;s Shoulder Shocker:
Joe is a meat-head but also a very good coach: one of the few I respect internationally. He
knows his stuff. I use this tri-set with my athletes because it’s short, sweet, and it works.
3. Foam Roll
Yeps that’s right. I ignored this simple tool for years, and I did it at my peril.
It’s too general, I thought. Not specific enough. But if you think about it: massage
also is a pretty general affair, and yet can do wonders for recovery. So ‘general’ isn’t always bad!
Then there was the fact that there weren’t any shoulder specific drills out there; nearly
everything you’d find was for the lower body… So I went ahead and created a Foam
Roller Shoulder Protocol, and here is the video:
If I say so myself, I was honestly surprised at how much of a difference this made, after just 2-3
sessions. Please try it out and see for yourself: you’ll not regret it!
OK good luck now and may your shoulders hold up well all the way through a long and
successful grappling career!