The previous article was all about the lower back, and how to bulletproof it to be a concrete monster so definitely go back and check it out, especially if you know that is or might be a weak point of yours.
In the last article of this “stability” series, we will talk about the shoulder and the scapulae( shoulder blades) from a bit of a different point than the “mobility” side. We can’t really untie these two because they kinda work in synergy with one another. That is right, today you will learn to make your scapulae as stable as a katana BLADE.( get it? Shoulder BLADE? Ok, going forward)
The shoulders act not only as an active joint in all the pulling and pushing motions in weightlifting but also as a “force transfer” joint, basically expressing the impulse that comes from your legs, up your back, and into the shoulders. They also act as a really strong stabilizer when we talk about all the overhead positions and even the front rack position and as we know: a happy front rack is a happy c & j.
The shoulder blades
When we talk about the shoulder blades of course we also talk about all the muscles that surround these, and there are many muscles here. All of them stabilize the weight ESPECIALLY in the overhead position, working back to back with the shoulder girdle to GET the weight up and KEEP it there.
Assessing the shoulder
Again, we will talk more from the perspective of the shoulder blade. There isn’t much assessment to do here, we mainly want to look at the overhead position because that is highly influenced by shoulder blade movement. We can also test the INTERNAL and EXTERNAL rotation of the shoulders just to be sure.
Overhead stability test
Grab a kettlebell in each arm and just put them overhead. Kettlebells are a bit better for this as in my opinion they expose any weakness faster. But here is the catch: you will grab the kettlebell by the handle and lift it “bottoms up” overhead. This is a great position to see if you really got a weakness overhead.
These exercises will not only help get your shoulder blades moving better but also your entire shoulder joint. We want to work all the muscles that act upon the shoulder blades and that cover the shoulder joint. A lot of them are fun too, so bonus points for that.
1. Dead hang( and dead hang shrugs)
As you saw, I am a big proponent of just hanging from a pullups bar. Try to also actively “raise” your shoulders when you hang. 15-30 sec for a couple of sets, you can do it even every day but 3-4 times a week should be enough.
You can also do “bar shrugs” from that positions. Basically from a dead hang perform a pullup with your arms straight. You will only depress your shoulders. Do these for 10-20 reps a couple of times a week.
2. Band/dowel dislocations
You can do these with a band or a dowel of some sort or even a broomstick. Just grip it as wide/narrow as your shoulders can handle. The narrower the better tho. Do these for 5-7 slow and focused reps. A couple of sets for 3-4 times a week should do it.
3. Plank protractions & retractions
These are basically straight-hand pushups. Get into a pushup position and just try to touch the ground with your chest and at the same time keep your arms straight. Now push the ground away from you and try to “make your shoulders touch in front of your body”. 10-15 reps of these, 2-3 sets at the start of every workout are enough.
4. Various carries
You can try front rack carries, farmer carries, or overhead carries, all will aid in the good movement of your shoulder blades! Try to do 50 m/set and 3-4 sets at the start of your workout.
These are your tools, now go bulletproof your scapulae! Try to actively work on the external rotation every time you keep weight over your head and you will see improvements in no time.