As you are training, you begin to develop pain in your shoulders with overhead movements or hanging. You rest it and/or stretch it, which provides temporary relief, but the pain returns or maybe even worsens over time. This is very common. In fact, I bet you know other people with the same pain doing the exact same thing.
We cannot prevent every ache, pain, and injury from happening, but many injuries we deal with in the shoulders are much more preventable than most people realize.
Are you doing something wrong in your training? Not necessarily. (Although I can’t say that for sure being that I don’t know what your training looks like.) Most likely, several things are missing from your training – several things that may seem so minor (and perhaps unrelated) and yet are so important!
The things that are missing are the things that are not fun to do when we train and therefore can almost seem like we are wasting our time – stability and mobility work.
Upper back mobility
For good shoulder motion and health, we need upper back mobility in the form of extension. When lifting overhead, especially in a squat snatch or overhead squat position, if we don’t have extension through the upper back, the shoulders are required work harder than necessary in order to get and maintain the bar over our center of gravity. With any hanging tasks that require a kip or momentum, such as pull ups, muscle ups, monkey bars, and beater, in order to get the full motion, we require mobility in our upper back. If we don’t have it, the muscles around the shoulder overwork. Over time, this can result in the many rotator cuff injuries that occur.
Because of the postures and positions we maintain on a regular basis, upper back mobility (especially extension) is lacking in most people. This mobility is something that is not worked on by many people on a regular basis.
This is my absolute favorite drill for working upper back mobility: Upper Back Mobility Drill.
Yes, our hips and shoulders are an entire torso away from each other…and yet they relate to each other significantly! This especially plays a roll while lifting with arms overhead or in front of us – think Cleans, Front Squats, Snatches, and Overhead Squats.
When we go into the bottom of a squat, if we don’t have the hip mobility to get to full depth, the torso as a result will lean forward more so we can maintain our center of balance. When the torso leans forward, the shoulders must compensate for that. When the shoulders compensate, we either have to create excessive motion in the shoulders and/or have to fire the shoulder muscles in a greater capacity in order to stabilize the area. Either way, pain will result eventually.
Most of us have the hip mobility necessary for us to function in our normal daily tasks, but do not have the motion required for the tasks required during our training and racing.
Even though the ankles and shoulders are on completely opposite sides of the body, the ankles play a huge role in a similar way the hips do. If we don’t have the ankle mobility to allow our lower legs to shift forward slightly, the torso will lean forward to compensate, resulting in the same situation stated above with the hips.
My favorite exercises you can do to start working on your ankle mobility are Banded Ankle Mobility and Kneeling Ankle Mobility.
Last, but not least, shoulder stability! Yes, we do a lot of things to keep our shoulders strong, but these don’t necessarily keep the shoulders stable. Strength will only get us so far. Without the stability, when the strength fatigues, injuries happen.
Strength comes from the big muscles that we normally work at the gym – deltoids, lats, traps, etc. Stability on the other hand comes from isolated work on the deeper muscles. These are exercises that people either don’t know about or avoid doing because, like mobility, they are boring to do. The other caveat to this, if people are performing the right exercises, many times they are not doing them correctly, still using stronger muscles to compensate.
Want to know what to do for this? Perfect! I have a Resilient Shoulders program that will show you what you can do to work on your shoulders stability and help to maintain healthy, resilient shoulders throughout your training and racing!
I’m not perfect either
I will be the first to admit that I am guilty myself in avoiding all of this for years. After constantly flaring up my shoulder, I realized what my training was missing. Once I started working on the mobility and stability issues consistently, I rarely have shoulder issues. If I do, it is typically because I actually did something to cause it, not just from my regular training.
Have more questions? Let’s chat! Schedule a call with me to discuss your situation and learn what can be done about it.
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