Shoulder Analysis

Great insights from another talented CrossFit Coach in the Southern California area, Missy Albrecht.  You’ll want to read this!

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If you haven’t looked at yourself in the mirror yet, stop whatever you are doing and do it! Just kidding, but hopefully you have a good idea of how your shoulders/arms look in a static and moving position. This post on shoulder analysis will look at how to achieve and maintain good shoulder position. Look at which category you fall under (it may be many of them) and take a look at the suggestions on how to achieve that good shoulder position (because now you want that good position at all times right?!)

* With all of the following recommendations, make sure you first pull your shoulder back into a good position first before stretching/mobilizing. It’s easy to compensate while stretching too and that just defeats the purpose.

Forward, Rounded Shoulders (or just one)

  • Pecs are probably tight so stretch them out in a doorway. You can also lay on the foam roller vertically and make snow angels with your arms (palms up), only going up as high as you can with your arms relaxed on the ground (see image below).
  • Lacrosse ball works nice on the pecs too, up against a pole so you can really pin and move your arms in different directions
  • Keep reminding yourself about good posture, sitting up tall and keeping your shoulder blades in your back pocket. You can also do shoulder blade squeezes throughout the day to help activate and strengthen those good posture muscles, but make sure the movement is coming from your shoulder blades and not your arms.
  • If your shoulders are rounded, I bet your lats are tight too. Grab onto a low pull-up bar at the gym, palms up, and lean back into a stretch for your lats.

  • I bet his left lat is super tight (palm facing back = internally rotated shoulder)

When I look at myself in the mirror, my palms (or just one) are facing back instead of facing my side.

  • Tight lats and internal rotators of the shoulder. Usually ties along with a rounded shoulder and can be fixed just like the suggestions above.

When I stand with my back against the wall (midline stabile) and raise my arms overhead………well I just can’t do it without arching my back

  • If you can’t do this, how do you expect to do anything overhead without arching your back? Shoulder flexion is what you need to work on, while keeping your midline stabile.Probably the best way to gain shoulder flexion is to KEEP YOUR SHOULDERS BACK WHILE YOU ARE STRETCHING.
  • Your thoracic spine may also be tight, so rolling on the foam roller can help with this too
  • Fix that anterior deltoid because it’s probably tight from that forward shoulder

When I stand with my arms 90 degrees out to my side and internally rotate both of them, my range is terrible or my shoulders roll forward to achieve the range.

  • Your external rotators are probably tight, so get into the back of your shoulder right above your arm pit with the lacrosse ball. Once you find a tight spot, move your shoulder back and forth from internal rotation to external rotation.
  • The front of your shoulder is probably tight and pulling you forward, so follow the above suggestions for forward shoulder
  • The pitcher’s stretch helps to stretch out the shoulder capsule and gain internal rotation (image below)

I can pull my shoulders back, but they don’t stay that way throughout the WOD

  • Usually due to weak external rotators of the shoulder
  • Sometimes this is just from laziness during a WOD, which we are all guilty of. It’s important to constantly remind yourself to pull them back and keep your shoulders active for good form, just like any other exercise. Otherwise you are just strengthening in a poor position and feeding into the vicious injury/decreased efficiency cycle. Exercising with bad form just feeds into bad positions

I LIVE to bench press… is my life

  • Knock it off. This just feeds into the forward, rounded shoulders with abducted scapulae.
  • Say hello to your back muscles and balance yourself out (pull-ups, ring rows, etc.).
  • This guy also loves to workout his upper traps, which everyone knows is overrated because it usually creates dysfunction of the shoulder. There are no arrows pointing to his rotator cuff, which makes me think he ignore his little muscles.

Exercise modifications while you are working on achieving good shoulder position

  • Anything overhead will probably put your shoulder at risk for injury and compensations, so try to avoid them while working on your good shoulder position. I know this is a bold statement, but if you love your shoulders you will thank me later. Replace with push-ups or ring rows. Maybe pull-ups if your shoulder range overhead is not a problem.
  • Modified kettle bell swings to shoulder height….anything above shoulder height puts A LOT of stress on already stressed shoulders.
  • If your shoulders keep falling forward during a ring dip, STOP and get a stronger band to support your body weight so you can practice good form.
  • If your elbows swing out during push-ups you are moving into internal rotation = more stress on the shoulder. Think active, external rotation even during your push-ups. If you can’t do that, drop to your knees until you can maintain good form.

  • Turkish get-up is great for shoulder stability overhead

My experience…

When I first started CF I had some pretty bad left shoulder pain. I had a classmate look at it and noticed that my range was REALLY limited, but I didn’t see it because I could get to the range I needed with all kinds of compensations. I was guilty of the upper trap syndrome where my left upper trap kicked in and was over working with every exercise I did overhead. So I decided to stop all overhead movements and work on my mobility, as well as work on the strength of the little muscles in my shoulder. Unfortunately, life/school took over and I was not great at practicing what I preach. However, because I love my shoulder and want it to be working for a long long time, I continued to avoid overhead movements. I may have been a little over protective, but I’ve seen too many messed up shoulders and don’t really want to experience that.

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