I am so happy to be back in Puerto Vallarta sharing with you some tips and tricks that will help you move better, move longer and live better in your bodies.
This IMF column will focus on some moves that will help you create healthier, happier shoulders. If you are anything like me, shoulder movements will play an important part of your daily intelligent movement practice.
I am so lucky that I have the opportunity to share what I know and do, with you, and give you the opportunity to gain more strength, mobility, and flexibility than you have ever had before
It is clear that shoulder injuries and how to prevent them and repair them is an important topic for me, and you, and many others. When I share items of interest to movers on my Intelligent Movement Forever Facebook page, the items that you “like” and view the most, by far, are items about shoulder health.
Shoulder health is also near and dear to my heart. In 1992, I started riding a road bike, including long distance riding with my bike club (Grizzly Peak Cyclists, Berkeley, CA, USA) and a cycling trip to Italy and France in 1996. My day job then involved lots of computer time. Rounded shoulders were my constant companion.
In 1998, I had to give up cycling altogether and go on work-related disability because of severe pain and limited Range of Motion (ROM) in my left shoulder. I thought I would never ride a bike again. Since then, as I have added more and more intelligent, healthy movement to my life, my shoulder health has improved dramatically and continues to do so.
Our bodies are designed to heal themselves, if we allow them to do so. Intelligent movement supports that healing process.
Understanding the Shoulder
It is helpful to know something about the anatomy and biomechanics of the shoulder in order to move it with intelligence. But if this section makes your head spin too fast, you can skip it (for now) and go to the specific moves that follow.
Three major bones meet at the shoulder and create a 90-degree angle.:
(1) the scapula (shoulder bone), a flat triangular bone located in the upper back that connects with the clavicle;
(2) the clavicle (the collarbone), which extends across the front of the shoulder from the sternum to the scapula, and
(3) the humerus (upper arm bone),
Together with the sternum (chest bone), these bones create 4 joints that allow the arm to rotate in a full circle, as well as elevate upward, downward, forward, backward. The 4 joints are:
(1) the glenohumeral joint is a shallow ball and socket joint created by the humerus and the glenoid cavity of the scapula. This joint allows the arm to rotate circularly and move up and out of the body. The ball of the humerus is larger than the shoulder socket that holds it, which gives the shoulder a wide range of motion, but also makes the shoulder inherently unstable and vulnerable to injury.
(2) The acromioclavicular joint is where the clavicle (collar bone) meets the acromion of the scapula, forming the highest point of the shoulder and providing the ability to raise the arm above the head.
(3) The sternoclavicular joint is where the clavicle meets the sternum at the center of the chest. This joint allows the clavicles to move, and
(4) The scapulothoracic joint is where the scapula meets with the ribs at the back of the chest.
Each of these joints is surrounded by cartilage to pad the meetings of the bones, ligaments to connect the bones, muscles, and tendons to attach the muscles to the bones. The cartilage, ligaments, muscles, and tendons help to keep the shoulder stable. The collection of muscles and tendons known as the rotator cuff works to stabilize the shoulder and holds the head of the humerus in the glenoid cavity.
If you are interested in learning more about the anatomy of the shoulder, I suggest “Trail Guide to the Body: How to Locate Muscles, Bones and More”, 5th Edition, by Andrew Biel.
Movements for Shoulder
The movements described below will help keep the bones, muscles, and fascia in your shoulders healthy and working well for you. Remember to maintain good alignment during each movement. All of the movements can be practiced supine (lying on your back), seated, or standing against a wall or an imaginary wall.
1. Start on your back (supine) with knees bent and legs on a box (or a chair or a couch). If no box is available, keep the knees bent with feet on the floor.
2. Place your arms at the sides with palms facing toward ceiling. Keep the back of arms pressing into the floor, or as close to the floor as possible.
3. INHALE, Move arms out and up toward ears, as close to ears as your range of motion allows.
4. EXHALE, return your arms to the starting position. You will feel the movement primarily in the scapula and upper back.
5. Repeat 6-10 times.
1. Start same as Angel Arms, keeping your forearms pressed into the floor.
2. Bring your arms straight out to the sides. Then bend your elbows, creating a 90 degree angle. Feel shoulder blades coming together because of the angle you created.
3. With that awareness, INHALE, slowly drop bent elbows toward waist into a “W”.
4. EXHALE, bring the elbows back to a 90 degree angle. Again, you will feel this entire movement primarily in the scapula, upper back, and finally, lower trapezius and latissimus dorsi.
5. Repeat 6-10 times.
1. Start same as Angel Arms, with your arms pressed into the floor and palms facing hips.
2. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Open palms.
3. INHALE, move your forearms and open palms out away from your body as far as your range of motion will allow. Keep upper arms close to your sides.
4. EXHALE, return the arms back to the forearms forward position. Return your hands to face each other. You will feel this movement in the scapula and upper back but also in the front of the chest, including pectoralis minor.
5. Repeat the movement 6-10 times.
Shoulder Shrug and Triple Squeeze.
1. From a standing or seated position, INHALE, lift (shrug) your shoulders toward your ears as high as you can. This can also be done from a supine position.
2. While you are still shrugged, EXHALE, squeeze your scapula together at the top of the scapula. Release everything and start again.
3. INHALE, shrug,
4. EXHALE, squeeze your scapula together at the mid-scapula. Release everything and start again.
5. INHALE, shrug. EXHALE, squeeze your scapula together at the bottom of the scapula. Release everything.
6. Repeat the whole sequence 3-5 times. This sequence is easier to do standing or seated, but it can also be done supine.
BONUS: Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls: Rhomboid Release Sequence.
Props: Any size YTU ®Therapy Ball (Original, Plus, Alpha) pair in a tote. One large yoga brick. (Contact me or Yoga Vallarta to purchase Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls and yoga bricks.)
1. Start supine with your knees bent and legs on a block or chair. Same as Angel Arms.
2. Keep the Therapy Balls in the tote and place the tote between your scapula (rhomboids). Rest your head on the yoga brick.
3. Repeat Angel Arms, Elbow Drops, Flying Pizzas and Shoulder Shrug with the Therapy Balls in place. This time, because of the Therapy Ball placement, your arm movements will be hovering off the floor to a varying degree, depending on your range of motion.
4. Keep the Therapy Balls in place, remove brick, interlace hands behind the head. Press the back of your head into your head, while you dip elbows side to side.
Bonus: Ki-Hara Resistance Stretching: Kneeling Twist.
1. Start in a lunge position with one bent knee forward.
2. Place the elbow of the opposite side arm (OS) on the outside of the forward bent knee.
3. Place the forearm of that arm and hand parallel to and touching the outside thigh of the forward bent knee.
4. For resistance, place the palm of the same-side (SS) hand on the back of the OS hand.
5. Move the OS hand away from the thigh, while the SS hand resists that movement. This back-handed move, creates strength in the upper and mid traps.
6. Bring the OS hand and arm back to the thigh, while the SS hand resists the return. This move creates flexibility in the upper and mid-traps.
7. Repeat 6-10 times.
8. Repeat on the other side.
“You are designed to be a self-healing organism; you just need some basic knowledge of how your body is put together and a few tools to help keep it well oiled.”
– Jill Miller, Founder, Yoga Tune Up®; author, The Roll Model, A Step-By-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body.
Thank you, April Floyd, for your photography.
Thank you, Dear Readers, for letting me drop into your lives for a little while. I hope the information I shared in this column will help you create a movement practice for maintaining and improving shoulder health.
Please also check out my previous columns, as you design and carry out your own personal intelligent movement practice.
You are also cordially invited to attend my Mobility Class on Thursday nights at 7 pm at Crossfit Vallarta (free to Crossfit members, 50 pesos for drop-ins).
I am also available by appointment for private or semi-private IMF sessions at my home Pilates/Fitness Studio in Versalles. Or invite me to come to your hotel, villa, condo, or apartment. Coming Soon! I will be teaching a Better Movement Class in Versalles Colonia.
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Wishing Each and Everyone Intelligent Movement Forever,