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Shoulder Care is King
Your gateway to upper body performance
My Friends! If you are a mid-life recreational or elite athlete, then your shoulders have probably taken a beating over the years. I know mine have! During the menopausal transition, this complex joint becomes even more vulnerable. Today's post focuses on shoulder strength and mobility work. Enjoy! -Carla
For this week, the Weekly Workout will be all about taking care of our shoulders. Joint care work is just as important as the soul-crusher workouts. So let’s take a breather this Monday morning and honor our shoulders!
The shoulder joint is one of the most complex joints in the human body and is the gateway to upper body performance. Movement and power originate in the core of the body and are translated to the upper extremities through the gateway of the shoulders.
At mid-life, women experience a degree of destabilization of this joint because of hormone-driven changes in the character of the tendons and ligaments (they become more stiff and lax) and a decline in muscle mass. Because the tendons, ligaments and muscles provide the bulk of the stability to the shoulder joint, this leaves us vulnerable to shoulder destabilization and injury.
Here we learn about the anatomy of the shoulder and how to fight the changes of time with targeted strengthening and care of this magnificent joint complex!
Shoulder Anatomy Basics
The shoulder joint is a “ball and socket joint” formed by the articulation of 3 bones: The Humerus (upper arm bone), the clavicle (“collar bone”) and the scapula (“shoulder blade”). The ball and socket joint is shallow, allowing for increased mobility. A thickened, fibrous cartilage “cup” called the labrum, provides stability where the “ball” meets the socket.
A “capsule” surrounds the ball and socket creating a water-tight sac. Tendons and ligaments provide additional stability to the joint.
A complex of tendons and four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor) form the rotator cuff and surrounds the head of the humerus. This complex lifts and rotates the arm and stabilizes the ball of the shoulder within the joint.
The deltoid composes the large, outer layer of muscle and is the strongest muscle of the shoulder. The trapezius, serratus, and sternoclavicular mastoid connect the spine and shoulder blade.
Needless to say, this is complicated - and care of this intricate joint involves muscles you see, muscles you don’t see, and other muscles a distance away from the joint itself.
Shoulder Strengthening and Mobility
I have struggled with shoulder issues myself. As a CrossFitter, Les Mills instructor, tennis player and former softball pitcher, wear and tear on my shoulders caught up to me and left me in pain and unable to rock my CrossFit workouts as I once did.
This took a Village - my amazing Coach, Erika, helped me stuff my ego back in the box and go back to movement, pain-free, basics. My body-worker, Donna Venuto, helped me understand what was moving well and what wasn’t, and finally, I will share with you two tools that were integral to my recovery.
1 - Crossover Symmetry - This is a shoulder mobility and strengthening system that many in the CrossFit community swear by. No lie, 2-4 weeks after using this system 4 times per week as a warm-up, I could FINALLY get through the night with no shoulder pain. I receive no financial benefit from sharing this with you - I share it because I could not have recovered without it and others I know have also benefited from it. To this day, I incorporate it into my warm-up on shoulder-heavy workout days.
If I am traveling without my Crossover Symmetry system, I like this spicy shoulder sequence:
2 rounds (using 2x 5 lb plates/dumbbells, or other handy, equally weighted objects)
2 - Binge-watching Kelly Starrett mobility videos like Netflix and joining The Ready State mobility program. Again, no incentive for sharing other than I believe that it saved me from shoulder surgery.
Here are 3 of my favorite Kelly Starrett videos available publicly on YouTube:
I do 1 round of the entire Banded Bully series as a warm-up on “pressing” days. It takes about 10 minutes. Post workout, the Pec Smash is another favorite if my pecs (Pectoral muscles of the chest) are tight from hours of zoom consults and hunching over my desk.
If I am doing pull-ups or other work on the rig, I like this sequence to warm up with:
… and if you are proficient with kipping pull-ups, try warming up with this Kipping Pull-Up Progression from Train FTW.
If you are injured or recovering from an injury, always speak to your doctor before adding shoulder work to your routine. Once you have the all-clear from your doc or serious injury has been ruled out, incorporating regular shoulder care into your upper body warm-up or on mobility days will keep your shoulders in peak form and maybe even become stronger than ever!