You think Mastodons Used Tubing For Shoulder Stability? Dude, They Didn’t Even Have Hands.

I once had the bad habit of partially dislocating my shoulder.  An MRI revealed a torn labrum in the right glenohumeral joint.  The solution- surgery.  I wasn’t too keen on this as I was a young man bent on playing rugby every weekend.  I decided to give it six months of conditioning (and rugby) to see if I could avoid the surgery and stabilize the joint on my own.  It was the success of this experiment that  led me to where I am today. 

From my many years spent breaking and fixing myself and subsequent years fixing others, this is what I’ve learned: 
1)  Isolation movements are boring.
2)  Things that go unused are not effective. 
For these reasons, there is only one simple criteria for determining the single best exercise someone should do:   The one that they will perform regularly and with intensity.

Done regularly, with intensity and over a sustained period of time tubing isolation exercises for the rotator cuff might be the world’s best stabilization exercises ever.  EVER!  The problem is that they are mind numbingly simple and no one has ever EVER stuck with them long enough to be preventative.  When the pain goes away, so does the tubing.  Look at this image below.  Does she look to be having a great time?


In your shoulder you want a strong flexible joint, but what the shoulder gains in range of motion, it often compromises in stability.  To maintain the balance of stability and flexibility, you’d be well served to use movements that demand both.  Enter Kettlebell Conditioning.

I like that Kettlebell movements begin in what is call the Warrior Stance.   The humeral head is pulled deep into the socket accentuating the depth and stability of the labrum.  This is easy to do but difficult to remember.  Stand as far away from a wall as you can and still reach it with your fingertips.  Now keeping your arm straight and without pulling your shoulder up toward your ear, draw your hand away from the wall by retracting your arm deep into the shoulder socket.  Easy right?  Now keep it that way while you perform the following movement:

The Arm Bar

This guy’s form isn’t great, but he’s huge so he’s in the post.

Could you picture this mastodon rocking hard to 80’s glam rock while pounding his external rotators with tubing exercises?  Perhaps he left his medical tubing and his disappointment in the trunk of his car next to his World’s Largest Person trophies and he’s just making do with the Arm Bar in a pinch.  

If you own KB’s you already do Arm Bars with the KB you own right?  So if this posting is useful for you, you can’t do anything with the information for lack of equipment.  Solution? 

The Broomstick Arm Bar

What makes a kettle bell superior to a dumbbell is that the weight is off center.  For that reason when substituting a stick for a bell you don’t hold it in the center.  The longer the stick the greater the stability demands on the shoulder.

After the press set your arm deep into the socket (warrior stance.)  Keep the stick parallel to the floor and at a 90 degree angle to your torso.  I do it like this:  3 sets on each side without a rest between, just a reset period as you saw above in The Arm Bar clip.  The time spent in the position is determined by the weight you use.  Stay there for several moments beyond your comfort level and rest when it begins to wobble and sway.

If it takes several minutes to get to that point of fatigue, it is time to make a change.  3 arm bars + 1 Turkish Get Up followed with 2 more arm bars all on the same arm before switching to the other side. That should do the trick.

The Arm Bar isn’t the only thing out there but it gets results because it’s a challenging functional movement that pushes stability demands and flexibility limitations in the same movement.  Before the next time you sit down to dutifully knock out a long cycle of elastic band rotators ask yourself:
“What would a mastodon do?” 



  1. Zach@OCBC on March 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    "What Would A Mastadon Do?" Flawless good sir

  2. GogO on April 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    i love the broomstick armbar