William Vandry on weight training, warm-ups, joints and muscles


All the time I hear people complaining about the gym. Some people get bored, or hate weight training, so they avoid it. I think it comes down to two things:

1) they got injured,


2) they don’t know how to properly weight, or resistant train at a gym.

Weight training has been a part of my fitness since I was a freshman in high school.  We do all the dumb things like bounce weight, get injured, don’t warm up or use improper form.  My wife Chandra wrote a good article for those who go to gyms, or are about to start training on our austinbjj website.1

She points out two important items regarding fitness training: minerals and collagen.  These two valuable parts of our nutrition are for recovery, and maintaining bone density and muscles.  I have injured muscles and joints weight training in the past when I was a teen and in college, and there are some who feel their shoulder injuries are from the bench, incline or pressing movements.  Many injuries happen in gyms.  Legs, joints, shoulders, and so on. I will discuss shoulder and chest in this article.

Shoulder injuries are called a shoulder impingement.  This is when pain occurs at the front or side of your shoulder, particularly when doing shoulder presses, incline bench presses, at times bench presses and upright rows.  A review of data from U.S. emergency rooms on Webmd found injuries from weight-training activities and equipment have increased 35% over a 20-year period.  The hand was injured most often, followed by the upper trunk, head, lower trunk, and foot.2

Without going into too much detail on improper grip, such as bending wrists too much when pressing, or lack of wrapping wrists, here are some of the other culprits of injury:

1) Lack of warm-up
2) Lack of technique
3) Lack of complete body stimulation
4) Lack of rest
5) Lack of proper nutrition

1) Lack of warm-up

When we train at a gym, our first thing should be warm-up even if you are pressed for time.  Don’t start power lifting or resistant training without warming up.  For example, rotator cuff warm-ups are vital.  I have a warm-up that is similar to a Jiu-jitsu move called the Americana or key lock.  If you have had rotator cuff injuries, or shoulder pain, you can always warm them up with this exercise I developed.  I showed my Sports Chiropractor this warm-up and asked for her opinion.  She told me that it was an interesting technique.  Weeks later she told me she had been applying it to her patients at her Chiropractic office.  She then suggested I should consider doing a you tube clip or a reference for people to try.  Here is the Vandry shoulder warm-up:



When performing these moves, your shoulder will stretch a bit more, but be very careful, slow and deliberate in case you have a current injury or past injury.  I am using the chest workout as a reference on this article.  I do high and low cable crossovers when warming up.  The low cable crossover (weights are low, you are pulling up) work the lower pectoral muscle to round it out or shape it.  The high crossover which most people do, work more the shoulder, upper pectoral tie ins.  You should do both, especially the lower since many pectoral sweeps are flat or not sweeping like Arnold, Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman had.  One error in gyms are when people put 100lbs. on a cable crossover.  It is a shaping exercise, not a mass development exercise.  You need enough weight to stimulate, not strain.  You have slow and fast twitch muscle fibers.  The fast twitch fibers use anaerobic metabolism to create fuel for bursts of strength or speed more than slow muscle fibers.  However, they fatigue more quickly.  Slow twitch fibers fire slower, and last longer for long distance swimming, or jogging than short sprints.  Weight training can use explosion and slow reps with both.

2) Lack of technique

Form is the king, just like your arm locks in Jiu-jitsu, or jabs in boxing.  Below I am at a Gold’s gym doing my chest, arms and back workout. I do legs and shoulders on different days.  Here on the bench press, after the Vandry shoulder warm up and warm-up sets, I then put my elbow braces on to prevent elbow joint strain at higher weight.  I always keep my wrists straight, locked and a strong, squeezing grip on the bar, not loose or thumb over (This is also called suicide grip).  The bench press is not bouncing or exploding movement, but slow and deliberate. I also pause the last rep, which tests form:



A proper bench starts with the liftoff, and although power lifters can break records with wide grip benches, they generally can injure their shoulders more.  I keep mine with elbows closer, back arched but not bridging off the bench, which can also injure discs or lower back muscles.  I bring my feet in a little, but keep the feet flat.  The power comes from the shoulder, pectorals and triceps, not arching.  If you do a pushup you don’t arch your back.  Too close of a grip stimulates the triceps more than the chest, so you really want to get a feel of what feels more natural.  If you are benching and your elbows are flaring out wider than your wrists, your too close of a grip or too heavy on the weights.  A good measure is to hold your hands out against a wall, lean on the wall and push away.  You will notice your arms are neither too wide or too narrow.


Many people look down or inadvertently to the side when benching or pressing.  Along with keeping your shoulders flat, hip up, you should look up when you bench as well.  Looking up, but not pushing off the head is the intent when benching.  Pushing off the neck can strain the neck.  The sternocleidomastoid are two muscles that stretch from under the ear down the neck to the collarbone and sternum.  The sternocleidomastoid works in conjunction with chest and shoulder muscles to assist in head-related motions such as nodding and turning the head from side to side.  Because it is connected to chest muscles necessary to lift weights while lying flat, bench pressing can easily injure this muscle.  Look slightly up, as this also keeps the entire spine from neck to waist area straight.3

In the Journal of Spine, a case shows a 24-year-old man with sudden onset quadriplegia while doing a bench press in the supine position.  He had a history of cervical disc herniation at the C6/7 level.4

This unfortunate incident is a constant pushing off necks, and possibly along with other exercises that injured his spine.

Flaring elbows

People tend to widen their elbows.  I feel this prevents the natural range of motion of the scapula, and when the humerus is extended, it does not enable pressing leverage.  You can tear a pec. Good form, breathing constantly, and you should learn your negative and positive power and strength techniques.  After warming up with my deltoids with light machine presses, cable front, side and rear deltoid raises along with rows, I stretch the shoulders, then proceed to the bench, then incline.  This warming up is a cardinal rule for all workouts.

3) Lack of complete body stimulation

Gym rats at times do bench presses 7 days a week.  You should work on muscles together, like chest and back along with triceps and some biceps.  If you can’t squat, do your hamstring curls, calf raises (preferably standing).  I do a set of hamstring curls each workout because the quadriceps are constantly stimulated by walking and standing naturally.  Weak hamstrings can make the leg compensate with the quads, which can contribute to knee pain.

4) Lack of rest

You need sleep, and rest.  Your body does not heal unless it rests. Sleep is a big problem in the USA.  Stretching also is a big help.

5) Lack of proper nutrition

Other articles on austinbjj.com and williamvandry.com cover mineral deficiency related to osteoporosis, degenerated discs in the spine and lack of proper antioxidants along with anti inflammatory natural supplements and food.5,6,7,8.

For Jiu-jitsu practitioners, or general public, warm up before working out.  Your development will begin slowly, but look at the long road of weight training and muscle development, not an ego boost, or attempting to lift more than your body allows.  Good luck!

Professor William Vandry


1. http://austinbjj.com/austinbjj/weight-training-for-joints-and-bones/
2. http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/keep-weight-training-injury-free
3. http://www.livestrong.com/article/528149-neck-pain-caused-by-bench-press-exercises/
4. http://omicsgroup.org/journals/spinal-cord-injury-due-to-cervical-disc-herniation-caused-by-bench-pressing-2165-7939-3-154.php?aid=23164
5. https://www.williamvandry.com/2014/04/25/obesity-diabetes-minerals-lumbar-disc-disease-collagen-ii-coconut-oil-and-the-vandry-racehorse-theory/
6. https://www.williamvandry.com/2013/04/28/professor-vandrys-view-again-the-racehorse-theory-for-joints-collagen-1-2-and-3-vitamins-and-minerals-for-the-joints-serrazyme-nattokinese-fibrinogen-breakup-lumen-90-and-of-course/
7. https://www.williamvandry.com/2012/05/09/professor-william-vandrys-view-may-2012-2/
8. https://www.williamvandry.com/2012/04/21/william-vandry-bjj-in-my-eyes-april-2012/

2 thoughts on “William Vandry on weight training, warm-ups, joints and muscles”

  1. William Vandry

    I enjoyed the research, and have been meaning to talk about the shoulder warmup.

Comments are closed.