Archive for April, 2013

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am all about training the basic movement patterns that we use all day long:  Squatting, Pushing, and Pulling.  You want a fairly equal amount of each movement, and if your routine lacks any of these movements, you’re going to start seeing some major imbalances in your muscular system.

As you begin to make progress in your program, and start using heavier and heavier weights, it is extremely important to devote a little bit of time each workout to strengthening your smaller, stabilizing muscles around your joints.  In regards to the upper body, this is especially true for throwing athletes, as well as anyone in a racquet sport.  Maintaining strong stabilizing muscles around the elbow and shoulder is crucial to getting the most out of your training program as well as to stay healthy in your sport.  But strong stabilizing muscles aren’t just important for athletes.  Anyone who regularly does strength training should hit their stabilizing muscles. Today, I’d like to talk about the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder, specially the rotator cuff muscles.

Note: The exercises below are meant to be “pre-habilitation” exercises, to be done during the course of a normal resistance training program.  These exercises are to be done ONLY when your shoulder is presumably healthy.  If you already feel like you may have a shoulder injury, these exercises COULD exacerbate the problem so it is always best to check with your physician or physical therapist before trying these exercises, or any exercises you find on the internet for that matter.  

What is this mysterious “rotator cuff,” and where is it, and what does it do?

The term “rotator cuff” gets tossed around a lot in the world of sports.  Any time a baseball pitcher or football quarterback go down with a shoulder injury, everyone’s first worry is that it’s the rotator cuff.  The rotator cuff is actually a group of 4 muscles that surround the shoulder joint.  The rotator cuff muscles are responsible for assisting the abduction (moving away from the body) and rotation of the arm, and they are also responsible for providing stability to the shoulder joint, holding the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) into the shoulder socket.

The 4 muscles that make up the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.  The infraspinatus and teres minor both externally rotate the arm, while the subscapularis internally rotates the arm and the supraspinatus abducts the arm.

How can I strengthen my rotator cuff muscles?

Since the goal of rotator cuff training is to produce a functional, healthy, structurally sound shoulder, it is important to develop all 4 muscles of the rotator cuff equally.  We have 3 movements that we must do to target the rotator cuff muscles: internal and external rotation of the arm and abduction of the arm.  For simplicity and because the infraspinatus and teres minor both externally rotate the arm, the two will be trained together.

Internal Rotation (video courtesy of

External Rotation:

The 10 Commandments of Training and Coaching

The following is a list of the 10 most important commandments for a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, or strength and conditioning coach to follow everyday.   Follow these commandments and you will find yourself becoming the coach or trainer you want to become.  They are in order starting with the most important:

  I.     Thou shall do no harm- Without a doubt, “Do not harm” is the most important commandment you will see on this list.  Your #1 priority and responsibility as a trainer or coach is to ensure your clients’ safety while they work with you.  Your client comes to you and trusts you to keep them safe while they’re with you, and it is your duty to live up to that trust.  If a client gets injured under your direction, YOU are at fault.  It’s not the client’s fault.   So from exercise selection to spotting technique, always focus on safety first and foremost.

 II.     Thou shall reduce the risk of injury- This may sound like another way to phrase commandment #1, but in fact it takes it a step further. While “Do No Harm” refers to your clients’ safety while they’re with you, Commandment #2 refers to their risk of injury outside of the gym.  Whether you’re training elite athletes, middle-aged professionals, or senior citizens, your first performance-related goal is to reduce their risk of injury outside of the gym, whether it’s on the playing field, at work, or around the house.  There’s no such thing as injury prevention, but we can certainly reduce their risk of injury by improving mobility and stability throughout the body.

 III.     Thou shall motivate your clients- Motivate. Inspire. Connect. Pump Up.  However you want to say it…as the trainer or coach YOU set the energy for the session.  If you’re dragging your feet through the workout, what do you think your client is going to do?  There are hundreds and probably thousands of qualified trainers all around you who would love to take on your clientele.  Give your clients a reason to keep coming to you. 

 IV.     Thou shall be attentive- Martin Rooney of Training For Warriors always says “Your most important client is the person you’re working with RIGHT NOW.” And he’s 100% correct.  When somebody is paying you X amount of dollars for a half hour or an hour of your time, there is NOBODY more important to you during that hour.  Give them 100% of your attention and energy and they will keep coming back.

 V.     Thou shall make progress- It may seem odd that this one is all the way down at #5.  Most trainers and coaches who are first starting out would put this one at #1, but the more you work with people, the more you realize that you must have the first 4 in order to get to #5.  An injured client doesn’t improve.  They don’t get stronger, they don’t lose body fat, they don’t improve their quality of life, and they definitely don’t improve their performance on the field.  The same can be said for an unmotivated client.  So you can see why Commandments 1-4 have to precede #5.  This is the reason we all got into this business-to make people better.

 VI.     Educate thyself- Whether you have a degree in an exercise-related field, or you have every certification on the planet, your learning process is NEVER over.  The best coaches and trainers in the world are the ones who are life-long learners.  It’s impossible to know enough in this ever-changing field.  Make a point to read/study/watch something with new information for 20 minutes everyday.  You’ll be shocked to see how much you learn in a week, a month, and a year.

 VII.     Thou shall be a professional- Connecting with and inspiring your clients is critically important to your success as a coach, but it’s equally as important to find the fine line of being a mentor and being a buddy.  This is especially true when working with young people.  Joking around is fine, but keeping the conversation professional is an absolute must and it’s your duty to set a good example for your clients.  There’s a time to chat, and there’s a time to get down to work.  It’s very important to know when and how to flip that switch.

VIII.     Shou shall be on time- This is an extension of Commandment #7, but I’ve seen this be an issue so many times in the past I thought it deserved special mention.  As a trainer, you must ALWAYS be on time and in fact you should arrive at least 15 minutes before your client does.  When your client is walking into the gym, you want to be ready for them, not running around setting things up.  Get to the gym early, write up your programs and get the gym set up so that as soon as your client walks in, you’re ready to go.

 IX.     Thou shall workout thyself (getting sick of these “thou and thy’s yet?)- It’s probably surprising to many to see this so far down on the list as well.  Keeping yourself in good shape is an important part of your day.  Along with getting your clients better and improving your abilities as a coach (through experience and education) it is important to keep yourself in good condition.  Since coaching and learning take up the majority of your day, find a way to squeeze in some good tough workouts in a short period of time everyday. 

 X.     Thou shall take care of thyself- To go along with acting professional and working out on your own, it’s important to take care of yourself in other ways as well.  You should always look presentable.  That doesn’t mean you need a shirt and tie to coach, but you should always be clean shaven, showered, etc.  You should also always be standing up straight, in your “ready to go” stance.  No slumped shoulders, no leaning on equipment, etc.  Your clients will pick up on EVERYTHING you do—from the tone of your voice to the way you stand, and therefore everything you do must convey positive, exciting energy.

 There you have it.  Follow these commandments and you will instantly see the difference in how your clients approach their sessions and what you both get out of it.

 Adam Reeder