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More Program than Gym

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Entries in shoulders (10)

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.

Posture Please!

The more on-site coaching I do at schools, the more I get kids (and coaches sometimes) coming up to me asking about different aches and pains they are experiencing. Yesterday at Stoney, for example, one of the track athletes was another in a string of shoulder issues we were working on. The typical mobility that helps is the partner pin down; we see immediate relief and increased range of motion about 80% of the time this gets introduced.

The concept is simple: when our shoulders are slouched forward (internally rotated), everything gets worse; when our shoulders are back in a good position, everything gets better. This pin-down mobility is the couch stretch for the upper body. You cannot get enough of it.

The reason couch stretch works so well for us is because we sit so much. Think about it, it's literally the opposite of sitting. The reason why the partner pin-down works so much is because our posture is horrible. Not iffy. Not bad. Horrible. Or in Josh's case, on par with Carter for the worst that's humanly possible.

Reggie's is not great either, but good lord Josh...This goes back to Mel's post about Common Sense. You don't need to know anatomy or buy a copy of Deskbound to be able to look at that picture and know that the position Josh is in is not good for the long-term. This is good for a summersault, or a cannonball in the pool, or a candlestick roll. But if Josh is an average teenager spending nine hours on their phone per day then that means 63 hours per week, 252 hours per month, and 3,285 hours per year in this position.

Imagine the positive effects of doing 3,285 hours hanging out in the bottom of a squat: you'd never need to mobilize for a squat again. Practice makes permanent. Now imagine the flipside: 3285 hours in this position and your body will adapt. Josh's body will adapt. It might not affect his track season this year, and maybe not even next year, but sooner or later the time he spends in this posture is going to catch up to him. The more time he spends, the sooner it will catch up.

Your phone or computer is definitely an important part of your daily life. I'm not saying to avoid it, I'm just saying try to remind yourself of your form on a computer or phone in the same way you guys do a great job of reminding yourself about your form when doing a deadlift or kb swing. Shannon and I will be helping for sure!

Katie Bromm's Athlete of the Summer 2013 gift to herself was a new neck

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.

 

The Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing was one of the those movements that came out of obscurity and into "regular" gyms when CrossFit first hit its peak. The "weird, ball-shaped thing" that my roommates have constantly tripped over are fairly common now, along with the unusual measurement of pood.

As CrossFit progressed, so did the CrossFit games. Although their were several types of swings, the Games used the American swing as the standard. In order for a swing to count as a rep, the athete must bring the kettlebell overhead enough so that the athlete's ears are visible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  However, you need two things to properly execute a complete American swing:

  1. full overhead range of motion and 
  2. the midline stability to throw 35 lbs or more over your head repeatedly. 

If you lack that overhead range of motion, athletes tend to throw their head "through the window". This can throw off the neutral position of the head by putting it into too much flexion. This extreme jerk of the head through the shoulder can cause some serious shoulder problems- just ask Mariah.

The lack of overhead range can also cause athletes to overextend at the top of the swing, as evidenced by the lovely picture on the right there. This problem is a little bit more serious because athletes go from loaded overextension, and since you can't reclaim good position under load, right into loaded flexion at the spine. This is why several gyms, like Brand X and ourselves, don't exagerrate range of motion as much as spinal position. A lot of times that ends up looking like this:

Since we only swing the kettlebell up as high as the athlete can remain hollow, our kettlebell swings look a little bit more like the Russian swing. Russian swings generally only go up to about eye level. Eventually the goal IS to work that overhead range, but until then, don't compromise your position.