Having a practice in a gym, I see many athletes from traditional sports such as football and baseball players, and also Cross-Fit, Bodybuilding, and Powerlifting athletes. One common denominator in many of these athletes is shoulder problems; particularly when striving for that lock out above head (which is a big part of Cross-Fit and Olympic type lifting.)
The problem is not the motion itself, it is achievable and pain-free in those with healthy shoulders. In reality however, most people’s shoulders are not as “healthy” as they think and will eventually be injured unless some intervention is made. Scapulohumeral and scapulothoracic rhythm refers to the ability of all of the muscles of the shoulder complex to work together in sync during over-head movements. When this is all in sync, no shoulder problems are usually noted. However, In todays society majority of people have some underlyeing shoulder issues that prevent this from occurring.
In order for “healthy” shoulder abduction to occur the shoulder blade must retract and rotate upwards allowing for a clear space for the tendons to pass under the acromion. In order for this to occur the rhomboids and mid to lower trapezius needs to be firing appropriately. It also happens that these are two of the more common problems areas for muscle activation in most people. We need to neurologically turn these on!
How do we do this? Step number one is to have your thoracic mobility checked by a chiropractor as this is directly related to scapulothoracic rhythm. We can then look at a few activation exercises.
Shoulders are a naturally unstable joint so it is all about prevention!
Then, Give these exercises a try and enjoy a healthier shoulder!
1.) Standing Bent Row’s from a low pully- An easy modification to the traditional seated row is to stand instead of sitting. Find a low pulley, attach the traditional pull-down bar, knees bent, core tight and focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together. You will feel this in your rhomboids and your mid to lower lats/traps if performed correctly. You can also easily switch it up by changing grips, handles etc.
2.) Standing modified pull-downs- Using a traditional pull-down station, stand about a foot behind the seat in a split stance. Using the traditional lat pull-down bar aim to pull your shoulder blades down and back.
3.) Face-Pulls with a Rope Attachment- Again using a traditional lat pull-down station or a high cable pulley, attach the rope, assume a split stance position and aim to pull the rope toward eye level, separating the two handles while contracting your back by pinching your shoulder blades together (down and back back.)