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Fitness Questions From Instagram (November 2021)

(Where is the year going?!)

Programming for rotator cuff work, Approaching training for your first ring muscle up & sequencing your session intelligently to work round injuries…

I saw you doing cuban rotations in your stories and they look a cool exercise for the rotator cuff. I already do rear delt flyes and face pulls, but am thinking I could benefit from those as well? How do you program these? I.e. at the start or at the end/high reps/low reps etc?

Thanks in advance!

They sure are a nice rotator cuff exercise and one I SUCKED at not so long ago. I can rep the Olympic bar nicely now with perfect form for sets of 8-10. But I had to start off with an EZ bar and some 1.25-2.5 kg plates and sloooowwwwllllyyyy build up to this weight – which is far from the supposed ‘gold standards’ of external rotation strength…

Standing Cuban Rotation with Olympic bar

Depending on who you listen to, there are a few figures:

  • Poliquin: 12 reps on the single arm external rotation with 10% of your max bench press (a 120kg bencher would be using a 12kg dumbbell!)
  • Ido Portal: 50% (Yep, HALF) of your bodyweight on the cuban rotation for a clean rep or more!
  • Multiple sources regarding prehab/injury prevention: do as many external rotations as you do other exercises – aka the ‘2:1 Pull:Push ratio’

So I’ve still got a long way to go to be inducted into the indestructible rotator cuff club! Although I’m super interested to see if any of the promised benefits of such high level external rotation strength are true…

Seated single arm external rotations (elbow on knee)

Programming for these is very simple: 3 sets of 8-12 reps and I usually do them super-setted with other isolation work (more often than not bicep work). They’re normally right at the every end of a session unless I’m using them as a warm up, in which case I’d go way lighter and only really do them in a warm up if my shoulders felt awfully tight/shitty, and I needed external rotation in the main moves I was doing that day.

In all honesty though, face pulls and rear delt work will take care of most of your shoulder health/balance needs. The cuban roation/any external rotation work will only come into its own if you’ve got a weakness there, which is still possible even if you have been doing lots of facepulling; you don’t always know how much you’re actually externally rotating the shoulder versus retracting the scapula.

The only way to find out is to get cracking and let me know how you get on!

How would you go about training for the ring muscle up 2-3 times per week as a solo session combined with the handstand? Are there any specific exercises you recommend? I can currently do 5 false grip pull ups to the chest on rings and can dead hang for 10 seconds – oh and I can easily do 10-12 ring dips.

A lot of this will depend on where you’re currently at? You’re looking to get your first full rep, right?

There’s a few approaches. I think with your strength base already in place a good start point would be eccentrics for low volume and low fatigue – say something like 3-5 x 1 done twice per week, three times at a push.

Then for the bulk of the conditioning work I’d keep it real simple, too. 3 sets of 4-6 false grip ring pulls with a 2 second hold at the top (rings touching chest). And 3 sets of 4-6 deep ring dips with a 2 second bottom active pause/stretch.

It also sounds like your false grip needs a bit of work too. A nice way to do this is to use the false grip ring row at an appropriate angle, and do ‘2 up, 2 down’ reps. 2 second pauses at the top (rings to chest) and 2 second pauses at the bottom (arms locked, hands in the ‘eagle’ grip). You can do these for high-ish reps and it will keep you in a false grip far longer than you’d be able to, just hanging, and you’ll be distracted by the rowing (2 birds, 1 stone).

Initially 3 times per week might be OK but paradoxically you may find you have to reduce the frequency as you get better with them. (Note: The guy who sent me this question is plenty strong in other bodyweight moves & does a lot of training already).

The ring muscle up used to be one of my main moves and I used to do them weighted for fun, did EMOM 10X4 finishers and all sorts….

I guess I’ll admit I had a bit of a fetish for them (and still kinda do, I won’t lie;)). But my well documented shoulder issues have left me with a very low volume tolerance to them at present, sadly. But stay tuned, the old level may come back and hopefully you have a nice set of 3-5 yourself very soon!

I’ve got an elbow injury that won’t go away and I’m a bit of a loss as to knowing what to do and what not to do. Some people have mentioned changing the grip/hand positioning on the compound moves, which I’m going to start doing. Do you think that’s a good idea & do you have any other ideas that could help?

Changing the grip will definitely help, or at the very least, not hinder as you’ll prevent any further overuse issues. And that’s often the case with elbow pains; they’re usually as a result of too much of one thing and not enough of anything else.

It’s not gospel but very very common. That said it doesn’t make it any less of a pain in ass.

I have 2 ideas that could be a game changer for you….

  1. Working on wrist/forearm strength
  2. Sequencing your sessions the ‘right’ way

Working on the wrists and forearms will give you a stronger kinetic chain across your entire arm(s). People do plenty of arm based work but very little forearm work. And I get it, arm work gets you pussy and forearm work is about as fun as shitting in your hands & clapping…

But it’s the neglected wrists and forearms that could be causing the problem. A 4-8 week dedicated time frame to doing wrist drills (like my routine: ) could make your elbows feel second hand again instead of like a Volvo engine with a million kms on the clock.

The post I linked above can be done 1-2 times per week as a finisher or separate session. I wouldn’t do it before sessions as you’ll tire out your grip and that will only make your elbows take/feel the brunt even more!

Exercise sequencing was something I first really heard about from the great Jay Ferruggia. And when you think about his niche and his own personal demographic, it makes perfect sense. He specialises in programming for 35 year old + guys who tend to be more injury prone and ‘beat up’, as he puts it. He himself is 47 and has been lifting for 30 years plus. He’s done the meathead thing, the ultra lean thing, now he does the longevity thing.

He talks a lot about the order you do exercises and the effect that has on your sessions and how other movements feel. Again, this means nothing when you’re new to all this and you just wanna grind out big squats, heavy deads & bench all the time. But when you get stronger and the miles rack up you’ll certainly feel particular movements don’t feel as nice as they once did.

Anyway, you get the point. The rationale is to get blood in the joints and muscles long before you do the ‘riskier’ moves – meaning the ones that are harder on the joints & have more potential for injury.

Applying this to your scenario, assuming you have a sensibly structured routine (the guy asking this definitely does as I’ve seen it), you would do your finisher/isolation type moves BEFORE the compounds. This will mobilise the joints nicely, pump the muscles full of blood and make the harder stuff feel nicer, and less of a door slam to the mush.

Usually this will be upper back work, rotator cuff work, arm work or anything of that nature. Obviously you can do the high rep band warm ups where you do 50-100 reps of bicep curls and tricep pressdowns, but this is a little aimless and boring. Whereas with the sequencing approach you’re doing targeted work and it counts more, so you’ll be much more up for it. This suits my mindset at the very least; if it’s written down, I’m doing it!

The road back from elbow issues can be long and very arduous. It’s a test of your patience as much as anything else. It’s a delicate tip toe of finding the right volume across the right movements, that you personally can tolerate. Essentially you can think of it as a game of elimination and reintroduction.

Lastly, I would do this for a set time frame and if there’s no improvement, then cap it to see a physio to find out what’s really going on. Until that point it’s all conjecture and theory, which means very little. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can topple that fucker the right way, once and for all.

And that’s November’s Questions From Instagram done and dusted. If you want your conundrum tackled in December’s edition (the last of 2021) then make sure you’re following me on Instagram (@straight_talking_fitness) or if you’re not a social media addict, hit me with an email:

If you’d like a training program that prevents any of these issues arising, be sure to email me about my online programming services. I design smart training programs that get results efficiently for a living and I can help you, too.

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

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