Let me guess…
You’re dealing with some issues with your shoulders… or maybe your back… perhaps your breathing?
You’re sick of it, right?
What if I told you there was a tool that could dramatically help you by retraining your body to move properly, brace correctly, and strengthen those muscles that necessitate a strong foundation?
Would you believe me? I mean really, in a world dominated by products that claim to be the be-all and end-all, would you believe me?
It’s OK if you say no – I know I’m skeptical when it comes to these sorts of things.
When I first learned of the Kabuki Strength Shoulderok a couple years ago I sorta passed it off as ‘just the next product.’
Then I saw people I trusted using it… with really good results.
Yet something was still holding me back from buying one.
Maybe it was as simple as my mind becoming… how do I say it… immune to the constant claims of bulletproofing your body with ‘insert product name here.’
Sound familiar at all?
Well, I now know that this was just silly conjecture on my part, because I’m here to tell you that this product actually works.
In case you’re wondering after reading the first bit of this, I’m a real customer. I paid full price for this tool with a credit card on the internet, just the same as you.
And now I can’t live without it.
Kabuki Strength Shoulderok
Before getting into the review of the physical product, let’s look at what the Shoulderok even is, what it’s intended for, and what the benefits of using it are.
The Shoulderok is a loadable mace-style tool that is built to mobilize & strengthen the shoulder complex, teach sound breathing fundamentals, and stabilize the core & spinal musculature.
Its primary intended use is for strength athletes looking to prepare their bodies for load and/or those rehabilitating injuries surrounding those aforementioned areas. It’s also highly effective for athletes who require rotational strength and particularly those who transfer power from the ground into an object (baseball, golf, etc…).
The benefits are multifaceted, but a few highlights include the following:
- Forces the user to stabilize the spine in a neutral position, thereby improving their ability to maintain position under load.
- Increases rotational strength by providing dynamic tension throughout the entire range of motion.
- Increases overall shoulder mobility including the scapula and surrounding musculature.
- Reinforces proper breathing technique, which translates to more efficient power transfer through the core.
There is also one feature of the physical product that I will outline below that is very helpful with soft tissue mobilization.
With that, let’s break this baby down.
Build Quality & Finish Options
If there’s one thing you should know about Kabuki Strength products, it’s that they’re built extremely well. When I first took hold of the Shoulderok, its build quality was undeniably high. Chris Duffin and his team recently introduced a new 5-axis mill/lathe machine at Kabuki, which allows them to fine tune a perfectly shaped Shoulderok out of a block of steel.
The actual device weighs in at 8.9 lbs unloaded, including the locking nut. Without the locking nut, it weights 8.1 lbs unloaded. The face plate has a stamped “Shoulderok” emblem, which I think looks pretty cool.
Speaking of looks, the Shoulderok comes in three different finish/plating options as outlined below:
- Regular Zinc – This is the version that I own. It’s the most basic option and also the most cost effective priced at $189.99. According to Kabuki, it’s also the most durable. Over time this version will move from a bright finish to one with a more gunmetal patina.
- Black Oxide – This is a popular finish type because it aids in corrosion resistance and it looks pretty sweet. My Rogue Ohio Power Bar has black oxide and I can attest to its badassery. This version is the middle price point at $209.99.
- Electroless Nickel – Priced the highest at $214.99, this is the premium plating option for the Shoulderok, and it’s the one that Kabuki recommends if you’re getting it plated. This version is supposed to offer superior corrosion resistance, aesthetics, and overall hardness.
For me personally, I felt like the regular zinc version was all I needed, but the other options aren’t much more expensive and they do offer some advantages.
Regardless of finish, the Shoulderok is built like a brick house. I don’t think you can go wrong with either option.
Dimensions & Measurements
One of the distinguishing factors between the Shoulderok and other clubs/macebell implements is that the Shoulderok is quite a bit longer. In fact, the Shoulderok is 48″ long compared to other tools that are typically in the 36″ range. This allows the head to swing freely behind the legs as opposed to swinging behind the trunk, which can actually interfere with the movement (big butts beware). Furthermore, the additional length places more emphasis on balance and actually requires more muscle engagement in order to stabilize the weight.
The handle is knurled (more below), with a diameter of 29mm. I love that this is consistent with the diameter of many traditional power bar shafts. The length of the knurl is 14″, which is more than enough to grip the handle in my opinion. In fact it’s quite helpful for shorter users (like myself) because you can choke up or down on the shaft (wow – that sounds bad).
Lastly, the threaded section near the face plate is 2.8″ in length and 1.9″ in width. This allows for 12 full revolutions of the machined locking nut. While the weight definitely isn’t going anywhere, I’ve had to adjust the nut a couple of times by tightening it after a set. I’m talking a quarter turn at the most, so there shouldn’t be a material impact on performance ever.
Handle & Knurling
As mentioned, the Shoulderok is knurled. This makes perfect sense to me because you’re essentially spinning this thing around your head like a helicopter.
Actually, now that I think of it, I wonder if Petey Pablo has ever tried one…
Anyway, the knurling is pretty aggressive, which I like. Considering I’ve noticed some minor hand slippage at times, I think the aggressive knurling was a smart decision by Kabuki. Without it I’m afraid it would be a much more difficult tool to manage. That said, I’ve found throwing a little chalk on it eliminates the issue all together.
The one feature on this tool that I think is really smart is the flared handle. With the 3rd generation Shoulderok, which is the one I’m reviewing, Kabuki ingeniously machined a handle tip that can actually be used for soft tissue work. It’s a very clever design that really speaks to Kabuki’s commitment to creating state-of-the-art and multi-functional pieces of equipment. In past versions, the handle tip was an open-ended flair that was great for grip, but it wasn’t really functional beyond that. By welding a solid piece to the top and machining it down to sit flush with the handle, they’ve enhanced the tool considerably with v3.
Check out this video of of Brady Cable demonstrating how you can use the Shoulderok in this capacity.
Learning Curve & Tips
As with many things, there is a learning curve with this product. It’s awkward the first time you pick it up. There are several great videos on YouTube on how to use the tool and how to progress through the movement. Here’s an example progression:
Progression 1 – Start with a front-facing pendulum in front of the chest. Work the Shoulderok from side to side. If you think of a clock, get it moving from 3 to 9.
Progression 2 – Move to a rear-facing pendulum, working the shoulderock from the same 3 to 9, but behind the head.
Progression 3 – Move to a full swing. Allow the weight to fall more to the side (as opposed to directly behind) and then around. This will allow you to maintain some momentum. Once it’s moved around to the other side, engage your lats and pull your elbows down towards your sides.
Progression 4 – Once you’ve mastered the traditional swing, you can start doing single arm swings, walking swings, swings with a squat, etc…
Check out this video of Chris Duffin coaching the legendary Eric Spoto on the Shoulderok.
The tool does NOT require heavy load. You can start with just the tool itself, but it’s recommended to actually load it up with a small amount of weight. 2.5-5 lbs to start should be fine depending on your ability, comfort level, etc… From there, make micro changes with fractional or change plates until you reach a challenging weight that allows you to still hit your reps without sacrificing form.
With respect to hand positioning, it’s recommended that you move the weight towards the top hand. So if you’re left hand is on top, you start the movement to the left and work it around to your right.
As far as programming is concerned, I use the tool in my warm-ups before training sessions and on some active recovery days. I like 3 sets of 10 on each side, where you super set each side.
Kabuki Strength Shoulderok – Pros and Cons
- It just works. I’ve been using the tool for a relatively short amount of time, but I use it regularly. My shoulders feel much more open afterwards and I’m beginning to really see the benefits in my core strength, etc…
- The construction of the Shoulderok is absolutely rock solid. I’m really impressed with the quality.
- The additional length over traditional maces is beneficial in that it makes the movement both more efficient and more dynamic.
- It’s easy to load. Just slide on the weight and tighten the nut. Simple.
- The knurling is aggressive and it covers roughly a third of the entire handle. Short or tall, you can use the tool effectively.
- The decision to add soft tissue functionality was brilliant. I appreciate Kabuki’s constant evolution of products. They’re setting the bar in several ways, and not just with this tool.
- Aesthetically, it looks cool (downright intimidating from a stranger’s perspective). If I saw someone swinging this thing and I didn’t know what it was, I’d probably run the other way. The fact you have three finish options is a nice benefit.
- The front face can be scratched relatively easily if you load it vertically or stand the tool up on particular surfaces. This is purely cosmetic of course, but a consideration if you’re picky about such things.
- I’m not even sure if I can consider this a con per se, but there is a learning curve. You’re not just going to pick this up and automatically become a Shoulderok expert. It’s not like a foam roller where you just lay it down and go to town. Take the time to go through the progressions. You and your body will be thankful.
All in all, this is a simple tool. There aren’t many moving pieces and it’s very well made. Naturally there just aren’t going to be many negatives when it comes to the physical attributes.
If you’ve got shoulder problems, breathing/bracing concerns, or you just want to increase your core strength and stability, I highly suggest you look into picking up a Shoulderok. Looking back, I regret not buying one sooner, but I’m really glad I finally made the decision to purchase one. I now use it before every training session.
With prices ranging from $189.99-$214.99, you’ve got some options when it comes to budget. If that is still out of your price range, Kabuki often runs sales on cosmetically-blemished Shoulderoks. For instance, as of the time of this review, the company is selling them for between $129.99 to $139.99 depending on your finish selection. Also, in case you’re wondering, the blemished bars will all have the new rounded machined end.
If you have any questions on the Shoulderok please leave a comment below. Likewise, if you own this tool and want to chime in on your own thoughts, please do so!
As always, I appreciate any feedback.
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The bar is loaded,