Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dislocate your shoulder on the cheap

Today I'll show you how to make a simple tool that will assist you when performing the mobility exercise known as shoulder dislocations. Better yet, it takes less than ten minutes and costs only a buck. Alternatively, you could use any number of household objects if you have them.

Cost: $1 to $5 (depending on what you already have)
Project Time:  10 minutes
Difficulty: If you're allowed to use scissors you can probably pull this one off.

Tools Needed:
  • Scissors make life easier
  • Saw (any kind) - optional because hardware store probably has a saw to use for this

Materials Needed:
  • PVC Pipe - 4 to 6 feet length of 1/2 inch or 1 inch diameter
  • Masking, painters, or electrical tape (colored is good here)

Welcome all,

This is the first project I'm posting on Homemade Strength. It's about as easy as it gets and it will show you that I can and will make posts about even the simplest of things elaborate on this blog. Because I'm about to ramble on for many paragraphs about something which ultimately amounts to a piece of pipe with tape on it.

Yeah, it's a pipe with tape on it. So what?
Despite the name, you won't actually be dislocating anything when you perform Shoulder Dislocations. In reality they are a great dynamic stretch to increase your shoulder flexibility which is useful for many things including low bar back squats. A narrow grip is better for this exercise (I means squats) and most people lack the flexibility to take an ideal narrow grip on the bar. A good way to increase your flexibility is with shoulder dislocations. If you don't know what they are, do a youtube search and I'm sure you'll find dozens of video examples. Basically you hold the end of a bar, broomstick, or pipe in each hand and then raise said bar over your head, keeping your arms straight, and then bring the bar behind you touching your ass, arms straight through all of this. Everyone can do this if you take a wide grip on the bar, rope, or stick in question. As you move your hands closer together, that's when it becomes more difficult, and requires more flexibility; precisely what this helps you develop.

There are many things you can use for this exercise; a rope, a broomstick, or any thing that resembles such things, like a jump rope or audio/video cable. I don't recommend a pool cue since it's a two piece design and liable to snap in half ( i know from experience). It's my personal opinion that something solid, like a broomstick, is better than something flimsy, like a jump rope. But if you don't have or don't want to sacrifice a broom for this, the cheapest and easiest solution is PVC pipe.

You can get a 10 foot length of 1/2 inch diameter pipe for less than a dollar at any major hardware store. You don't need 10 feet of course but that's how it's sold.  Since PVC has the ability to slightly bend, it won't ever break; unlike a certain pool cue I once knew. In other words, for $1 it will last forever, and actually you could make two for a dollar.

Make sure you measure your vehicle before you go to the store. If you have an SUV you may be able to fit a 10 foot pipe in it. If you have a car, there's nearly no way because your trunk is separate from the car. No worries though, there's two easy solutions. Bring a hand saw with you and leave it in your car. You can cut the pipe in half in the parking lot. Don't worry, cutting 1/2 inch of hollow plastic pipe will take only a few seconds.

If you don't have a saw or don't want to do that then take your pipe over to the section of the hardware store with all the wood baseboard and molding. There is almost always going to be a hand saw rig setup so that you can cut your own molding down since these things are sold in ridiculously long lengths and are charged by the foot. Again it will only take a few seconds to turn your pipe into a matching set. Just tell the cashier that it is one pipe which you had cut into two pieces so you only get charged for one pipe. If you can't even be arsed to do that then ask someone at the store to cut it for you. If you can't even be arsed to do that then how did you even get to this site? You must have had to do a whole bunch of clicking and typing on the keyboard, not to mention pressing a button to turn on the computer. That's way too much work.

In my experience a five foot length of pipe should be enough, but I won't guarantee that for everyone. If you have a pool stick, rope, length of string, broomstick, or garden hose at home, anything that you can use to measure your flexibility, do so before you go to the store. Again, watch a video on youtube if you don't know how to do the exercise. Test out how wide a grip you have to take to do it with your current flexibility. That way, you'll know how long you need to make your pipe (minimum length that is). If you don't have any of those things then just cut your pipe down to 7 feet. This will fit in your car unless you have a stupidly small vehicle. Then at home you can use your newly purchased pipe to run said flexibility test and trim it down appropriately.

Now you certainly could just leave the pipe as is and use it. But you could also make a few improvements if you wish.  In the picture you can see that I've taped off intervals using blue painters tape. You could just as easily use black or any other color electrical tape,  or even masking tape colored with a marker. But if you do that you would have to put clear tape over it so the marker doesn't get on your hands and then the clear tape will make the pipe more slippery and harder to grip. In short, though I used painters tape I think electrical is better for the task.

The purpose of this is to have a reference to measure progress. With a plain pipe, you don't necessarily know if you're getting more flexible since you can't accurately gauge how narrow a grip you are using. With these tape markings you can simply count how many marks and over time you'll be able to see your improvement.

Unlike Mr. Poolstick, I know you'll never let me down.
So $1 for the pipe. If you have tape at home then that's it. If not, you could spend a few bucks picking up some tape. Just remember it has to be visible so clear Scotch tape isn't going to work. That was simple, fast, easy, and cheap. In the time it took to read my drawn out elaboration of the process, you probably could have finished the project.



  1. Just a quick note-you don't need a saw of any kind to cut pvc. If you wrap a piece of string in a loop around it, pull the ends and saw back and forth, you'll have a clean edge in about 5 minutes.
    Great site! Bookmarking for the next free paycheck-I need a bench and squat rack :)

  2. That's a cool idea. I vaguely remember doing that when I was younger and replacing some pipe buried in the ground (couldn't get to it with a saw).