Training Series: Shoulder Stability

Last week we began the stabilization portion of our training series. This week we will be continuing with our stabilization series, with a discussion of scapular or shoulder stability. If you have been following our training series since we began, you may be saying “wait a minute, I thought the shoulder was to be a mobile area of our body” as we have previously discussed shoulder mobility and according to our joint-by-joint approach the shoulder is a mobile joint. However, for us to have good mobility, we must have a good stable anchor point to allow for good movement to occur. Think of it in terms of what we discussed last week with the “core”. One of the primary functions of our “core” is to be a strong anchor to allow our hips to move effectively. Comparatively, the scapula (shoulder blade) is the anchor point to allow for good mobility of our shoulder joint. Proper shoulder mobility requires good thoracic mobility (which we previously covered in our shoulder mobility post) and good scapular stability. These two factors help to maintain proper positioning of our scapula, which provides the socket of our shoulder joint for the ball (upper portion of our arm) to move around in. This is like the “core” stabilizing our pelvis, which forms the socket for our hip joint, for the ball of the hip joint (upper portion of our leg) to move around in.  Just like poor “core” function often leads to limited hip mobility, poor scapular stability often leads to limited shoulder mobility.

From a functional standpoint, poor scapular (shoulder blade) stability is a common cause of shoulder dysfunction and pain. Impairments in scapular stability can have a few different causes. Some of the most common include poor posture, and injuries to the neck and/or shoulder.  Poor posture and injuries of the neck and/or shoulder region can weaken the stabilizing musculature allowing the shoulders to be pulled forward, altering the position of the shoulder blade, placing awkward stress on the ability of our arm to move around in the socket of the shoulder blade. Poor scapular positioning can further weaken the stabilizing muscles of the scapula and negatively affect the rotator cuff musculature, which helps our shoulder to move. In fact, poor scapular stability can frequently cause impingement of our shoulder which leads to other issues including rotator cuff tendinitis or shoulder bursitis. This is important to realize as this cause often goes unrecognized as we focus treatment on the painful area. These types of conditions are frequently treated with steroid injections or anti-inflammatories, which will help to decrease the pain resulting from the inflammation but will not “fix” the underlying issue of the poor scapular stability that caused these inflammatory conditions. In other words, chemical treatments do not correct mechanical problems. As a result, these conditions often become more chronic and problematic over time when the underlying mechanical issues are not addressed.

Given the importance of scapular stability to shoulder and upper body function, we wanted to take an opportunity to review some of our favorite exercises that assist in scapular stability and improved shoulder function. It is important to realize that poor shoulder function, which could include limited motion or pain, could be a result of poor scapular stability, poor mid back and/or shoulder mobility, or most commonly a combination of these two. Therefore, it often is necessary to address shoulder mobility (which we discussed in an earlier post) and scapular stability simultaneously. However, it is also another reason that a proper functional screen or assessment be performed prior to training to have a better understanding of where to focus to help regain proper shoulder function. In addition, activities such as lifting overhead (military presses, etc.) should be avoided until good shoulder function is restored. Experiencing any shoulder pain or discomfort or just want to learn more about how your shoulders are functioning? Take the opportunity to get a proper fitness evaluation with our No Stress Fitness Strategy Session! For a limited time, we are also offering a free training session with your evaluation!

Just like we did with the “core” we will begin working from the ground and work our way up with scapular stability:

Supine Band Pull Aparts

Supine Band Diagonals

Arm Bar w/ Kettlebell

Supine Overhead Reach & Hold

Kettlebell Deadbug

Prone on Elbows Arm Reaches

Prone to Supine Half Rolling

From the floor, we will next go into our quadruped or suspended position:

Reach, Roll, Lift

Shoulder Taps

Push Ups

Quad Single Arm Cable Row

Half Kneeling Single Arm Overhead Press

Half Kneeling Arc Press

At this point, you may recognize some of these exercises as we have reviewed them in previous posts from our training series. One of the great things about functional training is that you can accomplish multiple goals within a single exercise as they typically require our full body to be performed. As we work our way from the floor up, each progression of position requires a bit more active stability and balance as we need to support ourselves against gravity. In the lying position the floor assists with some of the stability requirements; in quadruped we need to stabilize our spine and shoulders against gravity; in the stacked position we need to stabilize our spine, hips, and shoulders; and in standing we need to stabilize our full body. In other words, we move from very stable to more unstable positions as we progress from the floor up. Therefore, we can use positioning to target areas more specifically for stabilization training. As in the Half Kneeling or Tall Kneeling positions seen above, which require spine, hip, and shoulder stability as we train the upper body more dynamically through movement.

From the stacked or kneeling position, we will finally move to standing:

TRX Plank w/ USB Overhead

Clean to Press w/ USB

Kettlebell Overhead Carry

We hope that this discussion and the videos presented helped to provide you with some insight into how we train scapular stabilization here at ChiroFitt and the importance of good foundational stability to proper mechanical function of our shoulder. Attempting to train for strength or power without a good stable base to work from is a great way to create compensation and overuse, which increases one’s risk of injury. Next week will move from stability into strength and discuss why we focus on functional strength training, training through patterns and movements versus parts and muscles.

Till Next Time…

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