Shoulder injuries are common, particularly for people that are lifting weights. Injuries vary in severity, but they often hamper fitness activities by limiting the type of exercises that can be done comfortably. This can include exercises such as: pull-ups; the bench press; inverted rows; and many others.
As a starting point, using the correct technique for an exercise (good form) and the appropriate difficulty for your capabilities (e.g. weight, resistance, number of repetitions) will certainly reduce the chance of shoulder discomfort or injury.
Further to good form and appropriate difficulty, a technique that can be adopted to reduce the likelihood of shoulder injury is using a neutral grip, instead of a pronated of supinated grip. Neutral grip exercises can also be more comfortable for people with existing shoulder issues that still want to do exercises involving the shoulders.
Neutral grip pull-up bars are now widely available. Many will offer multiple grip options (e.g. neutral, pronated and supinated). Some bars include angled grips that are less pronated (or supinated), but not completely neutral – effectively a hybrid grip option.
For example, the Force USA Power Rack (which we think offers fantastic value for money) comes standard with a multi-grip pull-up bar.
The hex barbell, sometimes called a trap bar, can be used for a range of exercises, including: shrugs; deadlifts; squats; and farmer’s walks (if using an open-sided hex bar).
If you’re going to use a hex bar for farmer’s walks, then I highly recommend using an open-sided hex bar, often called a ‘rickshaw bar’. This opens up a whole bunch of additional exercises with the trap bar. We recommend the Trap Bar 2.0 from Iron Edge pictured below.
In addition to being kinder on your shoulders, the hex bar also reduces stress on the lower back when performing deadlifts.
For a terrific space-saving option that also offers three different grips – check out the Compact Trap Bar from SMAI.
The swiss barbell, sometimes called a ‘football bar’ or ‘multi grip bar’, typically offers a number of neutral grip handles; allowing the user to choose an appropriate grip placement (e.g. narrow or wide). Many also include angled or ‘hybrid’ grip options, such as the SMAI Multi Grip Bar (pictured below) or the Force USA Swiss Bar 01.
The swiss barbell is a terrific option for the bench press, which is an exercise that can cause shoulder issues for some people.
Gymnastic rings are versatile, cheap and portable. You can do a whole range of exercises with rings, such as: pull-ups; chin-ups; dips; and inverted rows.
I like the rings that have a series of regularly spaced loops, as you can easily make adjustments to the height of the rings, by simply clipping into the different loops. We use the SMAI Wooden Gym Rings with Easy Straps.