Healthy Shoulders = Happy Shoulders

How many times do you walk around with unhappy shoulders? How many hours do you sit in front of a computer with a rounded upper back and shoulders pinched forward?

These are valid questions you need to think about in regards to your shoulder health. Most of the injuries I have come across have been related to some shoulder injury or dysfunction. About 80% of those injuries can be avoided if the athlete would take the time to properly warm up and work on their mobility issues when they are not at the gym.

I have found that there are 3 exercises that if done properly can help make your shoulders happy again and help fix some of your mobility issues.

Exercise #1: The Wall Slide

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The wall slide is one of my favorite mobility tools to warm up your shoulders. They do 3 very important things:

  • Activate the lower traps, rhomboids, and external rotators
  • Strengthen the pecs and internal rotators
  • Decreases the contributions of the upper traps

They essentially help you pull everything down in your shoulders to stabilize your scapula while you can freely move your gleno-humeral joint.

Tips:

  • Focus on keeping your lower back against the wall by keeping your core engaged
  • Try to press your forearms and wrist into the wall while keeping your lower back against the wall
  • Only go up as far as you can while keeping your core engaged
  • Prescribed amount: 2 sets of 10

Exercise #2: Seated External Rotators

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The Seated External Rotators are a great exercise to strengthen your muscles that deal with external rotation in your shoulder, the infraspinatus and the teres minor. These two muscles are the only ones that deal with external rotation in the shoulder.
This exercise will help reinforce posture and improve the traditional rounded back, shoulders forward look.

Tips:

  • Always face the dumbbell
  • Start out with a light weight (5lbs or 2.5lb plates or dumbbells)
  • Keep your elbow on top of your knee the whole time
  • Prescribed amount: 2 sets of 10 each side

Exercise #3: Band Pull Aparts

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The Band Pull Aparts are also a great exercise to improve posture and helps fight against the evils that lurk when you sit at a computer all day. They essentially help strengthen the muscles that help retract your scapula aka the muscles that move your shoulder blades together.

Tips:

  • Focus on keeping your shoulders down and back
  • You only need a light band for this exercise
  • Keep tension on the band at all times
  • Prescribed amount: 2 sets of 20

So, next time you come to class, show up a little bit early and hit these 3 exercises up to start to have your shoulders start smiling again =)

Fix Your Squat

The squat is a foundational movement and is a building block to many movements we perform. Yet as foundational as it is, most people perform the squat wrong. I believe this is due to poor posture and a lack of proprioception, knowing where your body is in space.

If you are someone that tends to drop their chest and round their lower back at the bottom of the squat, then this exercise is for you: the Lateral Lunge.

This is a great exercise because you can essentially load up the movement and build strength and flexibility simultaneously. Instead of always performing a couch stretch or throwing a band around your hip, warm up with the lateral lunge to remain active throughout the movements.

The key benefits to this exercise are:
Hip Mobility
Knee Stability
Deeper depth in your squat

To regain your proprioception of your midline, you will want to start with a PVC pipe on your back. This will ensure you have a neutral spine and will drill it into your brain what it should feel like. You want to maintain 3 points of contact the entire time throughout the movement with the PVC pipe touching your head, mid-back, and butt. If at any point, the 3 points of contact are lost that means that at some point you went into over-extension or you rounded your low back. Only go as deep as the 3 points of contact remain, and overtime you will gradually increase your depth.

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You will want to make sure your stance is wide enough so that your hips do not feel pinched in the front and maintain the knee over your toes at all times.

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Try to remain active the whole time sliding from side to side without standing all the way up until you are completely done with your reps. Warm up with 3 sets of 5-8 repetitions on each side.

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Once you master the PVC pipe and understand what a neutral spine feels like, you can progress to Goblet Lateral Lunges. I would start with no more then 15lbs when you start this exercise.

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Holding the kettlebell in front of your body will help counterbalance you and will help get to the back of the hip. You may notice you can get a little bit lower in the lunge when holding the weight. I would start with the same repetition scheme as the PVC pipe Lateral Lunge and only progress into more repetitions if form is PERFECT.

So next time you have back squats, front squats, or even just air squats in your workout, think about throwing in Lateral Lunges into your warm up with a PVC pipe to start making improvements in your squat form and notice your PRs will go through the roof!

Those Pesky Wrists

Question: How to deal with wrist pain with HSPUs? 

The wrist contains a total of 8 bones and 2 bones from the forearm, the ulna and radius. The wrist has so many small and intricate movements involved with it that it is no wonder people sometimes have pain in certain movements.

There are two ways we can tackle this problem. The first way is looking at the mobility of the wrist. The problem with HSPUs is that it puts the wrist at the end range position. Whereas, 80% of people spend most of their time in mid-range positions such as texting, typing on the keyboard, etc. So if you think about how much time you spend never at full range positions, we can see there is a gap missing.

Here are some mobility drills you can focus on that put your wrist in full range positions and also work on the muscles of the forearms that are movers of the wrist.

1. Planche Position working on Extension and Flexion of the Wrists

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Spend about 4 minutes total on this. You can switch between wrist and increase intensity by going onto your toes. You can also rock side to side to really get into the cracks.

2. Lacrosse Ball Forearms

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Spend a total of 2 minutes on each forearm with your palm facing the ceiling. Make sure to dig the other lacrosse ball directly over the one on the bottom. You can flex and extend and make circles with your wrist to increase intensity.

3. Voodoo Floss the Wrist

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This one I grabbed out of my book Becoming a Supple Leopard. If you don’t own the book, you need to go out and buy it now! If you have wrist pain or any joint pain in that matter you need to purchase yourself some Voodoo Floss if you don’t already have them. You can purchase them locally at FringeSport. This drill really helps to unglue the tissues surrounding the wrist and thumb and will help to restore the sliding surfaces to that region. This is great for those that work at a desk all day and type away at that keyboard =)

The second way we can look at wrist pain in the HSPU is to look at the bottom position. The bottom position should look like a TRIPOD.

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This position puts your forearms perpendicular to the ground and your wrist right about the elbow. If your hands are placed right, you should always be able to see your hands. This position sets you up in a good position for you wrists and doesn’t put them into internal rotation which you can see in the picture below.

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As you can see, my hands and head are in a straight line with each other with my elbows splayed out to the side. This is improper pressing mechanics and you can see all the torque it creates in my wrist.

You can focus on working your headstands in the correct Tripod position before moving onto the wall.

So have pesky wrists?? Work on your mobility with the drills above and make sure you are set up in the correct position.

Have any other questions?? Email me at jesspowers@crossfitcentral.com and you could be featured on my next post!!!