Rehabilitating a shoulder injury: personal experience

morning workout on beach

Rehabilitating a shoulder injury: personal experience

morning workout on beach

(Featured Image: Melody Schoenfeld, photographed by Antje Anders)

Years ago, I suffered a shoulder injury a few weeks prior to going for my RKC level I certification. For those unfamiliar, it’s a 3-day all-day event where you learn intensively how to perform the “deep six” most important kettlebell movements (swing, Turkish getup, clean, squat, snatch and military press).

I was already operating with an injured wrist which had delayed my participation by a year (skateboarding accident where my wheels met an obstacle and I kept going, you know, thanks to that momentum thing), so I wasn’t 100%. I tried to snatch a 32kg kettlebell and it was too ambitious, my hands were too sweaty and the kettlebell wasn’t a high quality DragonDoor kettlebell.


I was able to pass and work through the 3-day weekend workshop, “pumping the injury through” as *they* say and was fine.

But, once injured, well, you’re prone to reinsuring eventually. A statistic I read claimed that the $39M shoulder injury industry has a 40% recurrence rate within the year.

Quite a few months ago, I felt pain in my left shoulder again. I couldn’t hang for pull-ups and doing any kind of angle other than vertical pressing or horizontal pressing was causing a lot of pain. I could do a Windmill easy peasy on the right with 32kg+ routinely (occasional 36kg, but didn’t push beyond). But on my left, the second I started to bend down, the torque on my shoulder with any load at or above 12kg/26lb would cause pain and unease to the point I wouldn’t trust myself, my head being lined up directly below.

While the improvement to my face from a kettlebell crushing my high cheekbones and bumpy yet aquiline nose seemed appealing, the pain associated with it was not an element I was looking forward to.

So I simply avoided the move, and switched to Indian Clubs, which would do a lot of good, improved and maintained my mobility, but loading was still an issue. I knew then I was compensating somewhere, but as any devoted, educated, seasoned and disciplined trainer, I ignored my own advice (of course).


But, as luck and interest would have it, I started teaching more and more ProBar Mobility workshops, and started to revisit the triangle/windmill move illustrated here. And I noticed also, that hanging from a pull-up bar, or lifting heavier loads through kettlebell snatching or jerking, even pressing, felt pain-free on my left shoulder.

So, a few days ago, I decided to test the move, first with a prep using the ProBar Mobility’s tool, then switched directly to a respectable weight of 24kg, to then 32kg (respectively 53lb and 70.4lb). Successfully.

What amazed me was not just that I did it pain free, but that I was able to perform the move having NOT touched it at all for over a year + (fear then avoidance), and with a starting weight of double the load of where the pain threshold was! And then add 33% more load on top (here’s how the math works: 24kg being 100%, adding 8kg is adding 1/3. it’s more impressive than working backwards from 32kg…)


Here is the entire sequence, uncut, unedited, raw, vulnerable and satisfying to know the process works. Incidentally, I had noticed, which probably led me to want to revisit this move, that upon resuming surfing, my paddling was pain free as well..