Like most middle-age folks, I battle with old injuries and what Brett Jones would call “mileage on the chassis.” A quick note about me, I’ve been a skateboarder for over 25 years. I’ve done my time in skateparks, pools, on ledges and going down stairs on both a skateboard and a BMX bike. My body has acquired its mileage by being thrown against the concrete at high speeds and sometimes from decent heights. As a result, I have a lot “itis’s” (arthritis, tendonitis and bursitis). There have been loads of stitches, sprains, bruises, a few knockouts and a couple of surgeries derived from my hobbies. I’ve had two severe labral tears in my right shoulder that required the joint to be sewn back together. That is the injury that would go on to nag me the most. 

Surgically repaired right shoulder aside, I love pressing heavy stuff overhead. Without staying on top of correctives, my FMS Shoulder Mobility score is usually a 2/1. That’s not the best for going overhead. So assuming I use FMS and Original Strength training to keep my shoulders at a 2/2, how do I keep my shoulders feeling great while pressing heavy? 

My secret weapon is maintaining shoulder health and mobility while pressing heavy. The key weapon in my restorative arsenal is Indian club swinging.


Pressing kettlebells was one of the things that sold me on them. Being able to find that perfect pressing groove was a revelation for me. I never thought I’d lift anything heavy overhead again. I had given up on barbell pressing prior to finding bells. The barbell didn’t give me a comfortable groove. As my kb pressing got heavier and more consistent, my bursitis in the right shoulder started flaring up. Sometimes it was awful. Performing arm bars and crooked arm bars helped tremendously but it was when I started using Indian clubs that the pain started to go away entirely.

For those unfamiliar with Indian club swinging, Indian clubs are 1 to 2 pound clubs that can be used individually or in pairs. There are set movement patterns that you swing the clubs in that help keep the shoulder moving fluidly and maintain a healthy range of motion ... they will keep your shoulders happy. Indian club swinging basics can be broken down into 5 movements.

Movement 1 is a small upward circle flowing into a large downward circle. Movement 2 is the reverse. This is also called the “Heart shape” pattern.

Movement 2 is the reverse of Movement 1. Movements 3 through 5 are variations and combinations on movements 1 & 2. 

Ok, how do I use them? I’ll usually do 10-20 reps of each movement during my warm up and cool down. I perform 10-20 reps of one or two movements as active rest in between sets when doing any type of presses, pull-ups or get-ups. 

Example with a pair of 1lb Indian Clubs: 5x Double 32kg Clean & Press
10x Movement 1
10x Movement 2 
3x Double 36kg Clean & Press

20x Movement 4 20x Movement 5 

When pressing near maximal, I tend to use a single 2 pound club for 10 reps of movements 1 & 2 per side. The two pound club gives helps to keep the shoulder more open and fresh on those heavy days. 

Example with a single 2lb Indian Club: 2x 44kg Clean & Press
10x Movement 1
10x Movement 2 
1x 44kg Clean & Press 

This scenario has worked for me through 3 rounds of Dan John’s 40 Day Workouts which had me pressing (and doing weighted pull-ups) 5 days a week. You don’t need to see the results of Indian club swinging. You need to feel them. Who cares what you’re putting up anyway if you’re body feels like crap after? Think of it as pre-greasing the groove. There’s my secret weapon to heavy pressing. Having a healthy shoulder. Now go order some Indian clubs, get swinging and press something heavy.