A Weekend at a Conference, and How to Figure Out Sore Shoulders


After spending the weekend at the canfitpro conference in Calgary, I have come to learn three keys facts of life:

1. Some people should re-think the pair of stretchy pants they bought

2. If you build it, someone will buy it, no matter how stupid you look using it.

Sweet baby Jeebus, look at those shoes!!! I haven’t seen something this stupid looking since seeing a guy bring a Mac to a Microsoft conference.

As is always the case with conferences, the content was pretty remedial, and the seminars left a lot to be desired. I mean, there were more than enough delegates there, it could have easily been two days instead of one, and we could have had a few more key speakers in attendance (Note: Peter Twists hair is epic, he must use a litre of conditioner each day).

While I was in a seminar about Exercise for Special Populations by Chuck Wolf, we had to partner up with someone and “feel how their scapula moves when they more their arms.”

I feel your pain, guys. I thought for those of you who didn’t know how the shoulder blade moves when you move your arm overhead, I would go through the basics of scapular rhythm and what causes the majority of shoulder problems in a way that is both hilariously awesome, and highly informative.

Let’s say you hang a picture on the wall, but it hangs crooked all the time. It’s going to bug you. Now let’s say you hang a heavy picture on the wall that slowly pulls itself out of the wall while hanging crookedly, and eventually falls to the floor, waking you in the middle of the night thinking there are burglars inside, coming to kill you and steal your stuff. You’d feel pretty stupid, right? Well, imagine the shoulder blade of someone with poor posture as hanging crookedly. It’s designed to slide, roll and rotate on the thoracic spine to let the arms move freely in a lot of different directions. Let’s say you go through a spinal flexion, or are stuck in a kyphotic posture (slouching). This forces your shoulder blades to “hang crooked” on your thoracic spine, forcing them up and out to the sides (protration). Give it a shot: sit up nice and tall with your shoulders back and down, then raise your arm as high as possible. Pretty high, right? I know. Now, lower your arms, slouch like a teenager who’s too cool for the room:

What? The guys in the Dungeons and Dragons club weren’t cool?? Damn. Now I have to re-think my entire life plan.

Now that you’re slouching like a mofo, try to raise your arms again. Not so high now is it? What’s wrong, slouchy? Shoulders not movin so well?? Hahaha, look at you with your slouchiness!

If you’re slouching, The shoulder blade can’t rotate properly because it’s pushed out to the sides and high on the thoracic spine. For it to rotate properly, there’s an optimal placement where it turns the best to allow your arm to go over your head properly, and that’s low and retracted on your thoracic spine.

Let’s say you’re stuck in kyphosis and you do a lot of overhead movements. Your shoulder blade isn’t going to rotate, and your arm bone is going to ram into the outside tip of your shoulder blade called the acromion process.

If the shoulder blade doesn’t get the hell out of the way when the arm bone is coming through town, there’s going to be a showdown, and some innocent bystanders are going to get taken down in the cross fire. That little tendon on the top of the arm bone is the supraspinatus tendon, and he’s a little guy who gets the crap kicked out of him when you raise your arms over head without a properly rotating scapula. Sort of like the inseam of RIchard Simmons shorts, it winds up chaffed, worn down, and emotionally scarred for life.

Some of the main contributors to shoulder hangning position include hip position, spine position, and even foot position (you internally rotate your foot, you’re gonna tip your pelvis, which pulls on your spine, and makes me look wicked smart when I make your shoulders feel better by getting your feet working again). There is no “perfect posture” or even ideal posture, but when you put the body under more stress than it normally handles, it works on getting stronger to handle that stress, which means when you start slouching, your body wants to make you stronger to be better at slouching. When you’re shoulders start aching, your muscles are going to get shorter and tighter, making it less of an effort to hang your arms from your neck, and shortens the distance, pulling your shoulders up and forward. Corrrecting how they hangin’ is going to fix a lot of shoulder problems, and even prevent them from happening in the first place. If you work out with shite posture, like most guys who go to the gym to try to lift heavy without any thought of technique, progressions, or even simple common sense, you’re going to accelerate that even more.

Your mom was right when she used to always yell at you “Sit up straight!” If you had listened to her instead of tuning her out all the time, you might not have to get me to fix your bad wings, now, wouldn’t you? That is why you fail.

So any easy way to get the shoulders to hang properly is to work on getting the blades to pull down and back instead of pull up and forward. The series shown below, in addition to being the sexist use of a grey Under Armour t-shirt known to mankind, shows an easy series of exercises to warm up the shoulder and get it sitting right before a workout, as well as correcting poture.

By getting the scapula moving properly, you can reduce the chance of shoulder pain and injuries, and also increase your overall strength by not having to rely on your rotator cuff to keep the place together.

About deansomerset

Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Post-Rehab Specialist, personal trainer and probably the coolest guy my mom knows, I try to impart a little knowledge with a sense of humor to keep people reading. I've always thought if it's something that can grab your attention, you're gonna remember it tomorrow!!
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