How to Template Shoulder Health Exercises

When crafting a shoulder health plan, it should go without saying it behooves you to take into consideration more than just the glenohumeral (ball-and-socket) joint. But yet you still see many folks cranking away at banded external rotations as if they're getting paid a dollar for every rep they perform.

Those have their place, but are only one small portion of a much larger picture.

The core, thoracic spine, scapula, ribcage, even breathing patterns, among many other things, play a significant roll in whether or not your shoulder flips you the bird when you go to throw a ball, press something heavy, or lift your hands over your head while dancing to Taylor Swift's Shake It Off like the peeps in this video that won the internet the day it was uploaded.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, you can check out this post by Tony Gentilcore, in which he dives into a number of factors to consider and strategies to implement when dealing with a bum shoulder, all while keeping it entertaining to boot. It's super imperative to remember the bigger picture when thinking about "shoulder health" (an often ill-define term at best), because if you fail to do so, you likely won't get very far by solely attacking the shoulder joint itself. 

Since Tony's article addresses a number of important broad strategies, today I'm going to discuss a few of the local and specific drills to take into consideration when designing a program to fortify the shoulder, along with suggestions on disseminating them throughout a training week.

When getting into the nitty gritty of training the shoulder joint itself - primarily at the glenohumeral and scapulothoracic joints -  we need to consider the various hats that the rotator cuff and scapula need to wear in order to keep the shoulder happy during movement.

While by no means exhaustive, here are a few critical functions of each:

Rotator Cuff

  1. strength
  2. good timing (strength is important, but the cuff must be able to apply that strength at the right moment)
  3. motor control (can an individual rotate the humeral head on its axis without migrating it out of the socket? can the cuff function as a stabilizer without requiring the biceps tendon to take over?)
  4. dynamic stability (can it keep the humeral head centered in the glenoid?)


  1. sufficient upward rotation
  2. stability (can it maintain good position on the ribcage in the presence of change?)

Make sure that in a given training cycle, you help your people address not just one, but all the roles of the cuff and scapula that need to work as a cohesive unit.

If only one of the above is lacking, the entire operation may be thrown off and voila, hello to the wonderful world of shoulder pain, weakness, poor function, and other things that are almost as fun as a Justin Bieber concert.

Here are quick examples of just one exercise for each function:



(the cuff has to fire as soon as the resistance kicks in, in order to keep the humeral head centered in the glenoid and not lose control of the joint as it moves into internal rotation)

Motor Control

Dynamic Stability

Upward Rotation


(note: there will be a lot of overlap between exercises that address upward rotation and those that address stability)

An easy way to ensure you're covering your bases and doing your due diligence as a coach, is to template these categories out in advance.

Do the work once, and then, each time you have to write a new program, it won't take much time at all, as you've already done the thinking ahead of time.

Depending on your trainees' needs and assessment findings, you can, if needed, prioritize some categories over the other, in order to address the entire spectrum of shoulder shenanigans that people present with.

- Those with very "loose" shoulders will need more dynamic stability work
- Those whose scapulae tend to fly off the ribcage could use a fair degree of scapular stability drills, focusing on both the concentric and the eccentric phase of drills
- For those who have difficulty getting overhead, shoulder flexion drills and scapular upward rotation work will serve them well

Fortunately, Concentric Brain makes this extremely easy to do!

It comes preloaded with all the categories and sub-categories, along with a healthy dose of exercises for each category. But of course, you can still insert your own personal exercises, as well.

In the below pics, you'll see examples of sub-categories for shoulder health in the middle column, along with the list of corresponding exercises on the right hand side. 

And in the Concentric Brain template section, you can assign the respective categories wherever you please.

Prefer to do shoulder care in between sets of heavy lifts? Done.
Or at the end of a session, as part of a cool down? Done.
Want some upward rotation work to offset bench pressing? Yep.
Or some motor control drills in the beginning, to instill good mechanics while the athlete is fresh? Done, done, and done.

Distribute and prioritize the functions/movements throughout the week however you please, based on your style and your respective training population and the assessments that you perform. Then, when you generate your programs from your templates, you know that you've already covered your bases!

Note how in the second exercise for each day, there is a specific shoulder care category assigned. You can of course map out these templates however you want.

Note how in the second exercise for each day, there is a specific shoulder care category assigned. You can of course map out these templates however you want.

And the best part is, rather than trying to rack your brain with every new program trying to think of the next shoulder care drill to implement, CB already does this for you.

Don't like exactly what is spit out? Simply edit it when you get to the workout page. You'll also have ALL of your shoulder care drills and progressions listed out right there in front of you for lightning-fast access should you be drawing a blank on what to do.

It doesn't get much more awesome than this.

You can rarely template out in advance 100% of what someone needs - that's where the art of programming comes and the attention to each individual in front of you come in - but you can make things easier for yourself by setting up systems to streamline your programming process. Plus, you can always edit your templates as you continue to develop in your field.

Want access to Concentric Brain's templating and program design software?

Schedule a tour of the system today or give us a call!