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Entries in bad shoulders (11)

Coach's Corner: Shoulders in the Floor Press

Without knowing anything about mobility, anatomy, or physiology, anyone could identify that shoulders shouched forwards is back and shoulders pulled back is good. Not only is shoulders back a stronger position, but also safer. Sometimes this gets tricky to identify when doing movements in CrossFit because there is so much going on, so many moving parts, and we are often changing our orientation in space.

While doing floor presses, we are lying on our back and this gives us a better view of what our shoulders might be doing in push-ups (the same movement, just flipped on our belly). Pay attention to the shoulder position of Shakes and Jacqueline in the video below.

Notice how Shakes's shoulders slowly roll forward on the descent, while Jackie's do a pretty good job of staying further back against the ground. As with most things we see in the gym, this can be broken down to both a movement and mobility issue.

Movement. The set-up of the lift gets more important as the weight increases. In the floor press, we need to have the same set-up as our push-up: butt and belly tight with external rotation in the shoulder. But because we have an added point of support (the floor), we need to actively pinch the shoulder blades back together bebefore we start to make sure they don't ram into the floor while the movement is being completed, causing the shoulder to roll forward.

Mobility. The more mobility we have, the more room for error we are granted. In Shakes's case, she is missing shoulder extension, which is coupled with internal rotation. If this is the main problem, it would be a long-term fix and something that needs daily mobility work, but it can definitely be improved.

The floor press is a weird lift, and is something we wouldn't see as much if we had more benches. But in a video call with the Martins from Brand X a few months ago, they actually told me they believe it's better to practice floor press for most athletes anyway, especially if they aren't competing in powerlifting. Either way, I'll be paying attention to what the shoulders are looking like whenever these happen to come up.

Picture Analysis: Mr. Z

Mr. Z, I know you think I'm the "only trainer" because I pay you occasional compliments. Unfortunately, this is not one of those occasional times. Check out this photo from earlier this month of Mr. Z during a squat.

Notice how his shoulders are rolled forward? When we are standing straight up, we cue good shoulder position by flipping the palms up so that your pinkies are close to your body and your thumbs are away from your body. During a squat, not much changes. Instead of exaggerating the movement by flipping the palms all the way up (because after all, you have the squat to think about), we cue "thumbs up". This ensures that the elbow-pits are facing up towards the ceiling and the shoulder is in a better position. For people with notoriously bad shoulder position, like Mr. Z, it's especially important to spend as much time with those shoulders back as possible. Here's some better examples by Jennifer and Kroll.

Don't Go a'Cheatin' the Ring Holds

Ring holds have been making an appearance in the warmup for the last week or so and luckily most of you have avoided looking like Chris in the picture below. Those of you that are struggling to get in this position are at least aware that this is not a strong position and are fighting for that turn out at the rings.

Once you have gotten the turn out at the rings and the elbow pits are semi-forward, all is good. But not really. This is the most common position that we see on ring holds. Rings are turned out but the shoulder position hasn't deviated very much from the bad example above. It's important to remember that just as the knee is an indicator of the hip position, the hand and elbow are indicators of the other main mover: the shoulder. Coaches use the "Turn out" or "Elbow pits forward" cue because they want your shoulders to be screwed back into their respective sockets, not just because it looks pretty. Athletes tend to forget about the shoulder and sag on the tissue, but since the rings are turned out they don't think anything is wrong.

What we're looking for is the picture below. The rings are turned out and the athlete's shoulders are pulled back and down. Often the athlete will display a more mature hollow body (read: less folded up) during this ring hold as well. 

SDHP: Continuing to Keep the Shoulders Back 

We've seen sumo deadlift high-pulls once every 10 days or so this summer (thank god they aren't at the level of the summer of the sumo deadlift). Of course we're  continuing the battle of keeping the shoulders back for that final pull. A common cue that you'll hear is "pinch your shoulders back." If done correctly, the "top" position should look like this.

When the intesnity was brought up and you guys were expected to do 42, 30 or 18 pretty much unbroken, some of you started to look like this.

Something that started to look familiar throughout the day was the grip when the shoulders started to come forward. The athlete would start to hold the bar by the tips of their fingers because the angle that their arm is at won't allow them to have a complete grip (of course it's still possible to have full grip and forward shoulders, here's looking at you Murley). But if you're having a hard time keeping your shoulders pinched back because they're behind you and just to hard to think about, here's a cue that might be a little easier. Think of unweighting the bar so that it presses against your palms, the widest part of your hand. If you look down and find yourself unweighting and the bar is mostly held by your fingers (specifically your middle knuckle), it might be time for a shoulder check. 

Noodle Arms in Hollow Rocks

The underappreciated movement put in every warmup since they first entered the Champions Club consiousness. The midline part of the hollow rock has been looking pretty solid. The dads have set the example and it seems as if clanking is at an all time low. However, some people have been slackin' a little bit with the arms and looking like Anita here. 

There's nothing wrong with keeping your shoulders within your range of motion, but the problem with this hollow rock is that you can see the arms are soft. JZ keeps his shoulders a little farther out and in front of his head because as well all know, he doesn't have the strongest ROM, but he keeps them engaged and locked out. This is beneficial because:

  • it helps athletes who would might jump in this position. No one wants to be disengaged in the midline and get slammed in midair. This is also why we've been working on the "freeze" in a hollow position on the top of the kettlebell swing
  • if there's a workout like....say, overhead squats, when you would have to maintain an active shoulder, this would be a great way to get the blood flowing up there.


Beast Mode: The Blob

The Blobbings of Carter the Blob episode 1: Front squats.

Carter might have the least flexible shoulders in Champions Club history. They have improved but still not up to par to be able to do max effort overhead squats today. Instead, we did Front squats and he was in top form - finishing at 90 pounds. Check it out.

Grip Strength FYI

Grip strength is a weird topic and has been covered on this site before but mostly relating to the use of chalk.

The principles of grip strength follow the same principles of balance: the more points of support you have, the easier it is. In my understanding, there are three things that can determine how much support you can have with your hands (in the order).

1. Hand size

This one is obvious. The more surface area on your hand, the more available to support bodyweight. As far as I know, there's not a whole lot you can do about this. I'm in the small hands category as bad as anyone (very frustrating as a basketball player and quarterback). If this is the case, you won't be able to tolerate as many deficiencies in the following points.

2. Mobility

The two most common movements where people complain about grip strength I noticed are pull-ups and snatches. Both movements are at near-end ranges of motion - which means a lot of mobility is required. In the pull-up, your shoulders are in flexion. And in order to maintain stability, external rotation is also required. To ensure this, we force all athletes to keep a "hook grip" on the bar. If they are missing this flexion/external rotation, their pinkey knuckle slides down, followed by the ring finger. What does that mean? Less points of support.

With the snatch, the wide grip makes it really difficult to create the same base of support in your hands. But if you have good shoulder/wrist mobility, it is not as much of a problem. You need a lot of internal rotation based on where the bar is and you also need enough external rotation due to the high degree of abduction.

Matt is missing internal rotation in his shoulders. Imagine if it was a snatch grip.

3. Strength

"Grip" is an expression of pulling.

Under no circumstance are you gripping something while trying to push it further away from you. Pull-ups, deadlift, rope climb, hanging from the rings, farmers carry; those are all examples of you trying to not let the object move away from you. Grip and pulling are always coupled (that I realized during a Day Care session when I was trying to think of ways I could make the little minions practice pulling, only to see four-year-old Anna hanging on my arm).

An interesting thing is if you are missing range of motion then your shoulders fall out of a good position - which means your strength is compromised.

* Another factor in your ability to hold on to something is uncontrolled factors like a wet object or sweaty hands. This lack of friction decreases the stability of the point of support. Chalk increases the friction making the point of support more stable (which is also the reason why people run faster in track spikes).

**Also, it is natural for your grip to go before anything else. Human beings are naturally better at pushing than they are at pulling.

Hook Grip vs. Non-Hook Grip. October 7, 2013


So what does this mean?

If your grip sucks then work to correct it in the order listed above. First pray that you haven't gone through puberty yet. Then develop the ability to get a lot of points of support around an object (mobility). Finally, work on the capacity to keep those points of support for as long as possible (pulling).

Things like wrist curls, the goofy dowel rolling thing, and hand grips don't make your grip better. How could they? In real life, your grip remains static while your pull something closer to you (or you closer to something). None of those exercises serve that purpose; they take grip out of its natural context (much like crunches do with "ab strength").

However, these exercises do one thing very well, and that is get your forearms swole. If you're in to that kind of thing then so be it, just understand forearms have little to do with grip strength in the same way calf size has little to do with jumping ability.

You have all been part of an experiment the past 3 weeks. Doing strict pull-ups is a good way to improve your strength in pulling at the limits of your shoulder range of motion. Thoracic spine mobility is a major factor in shoulder range of motion. I believe your "grip strength" is a direct reflection of  (not component of) your ability to pull and shoulder mobility. By hammering these two things in the coming weeks, it should help you with hook grip and hang cleans. If not, back to the drawing board...