Shoulder Alignment (Packing the Shoulders)
For the purpose of this section all you need to know about the shoulder joint is that it is incredibly mobile, but not as stable as it probably should be for the mobility that it has. This is the reason why shoulder impingement problems and rotator cuff strains and tears are so common. Although there are probably many possible causes, it is my opinion that the majority of shoulder injuries come from one of two possible causes a) over training of pressing movements (i.e. Bench Press) and not enough pulling movements (i.e. Rows) thereby creating an imbalance in the musculature of the upper body, which is partly caused by b) incorrect alignment of the shoulders when performing exercises or repetitive everyday tasks.
The first of these two problems can be overcome by having a balanced exercise and stretching program, while the second problem (alignment) needs a bit more of an explanation.
Let me start by saying that I think that BALANCE is extremely important. Everything in nature has an opposite – hot/cold, light/dark, front/back, yin/yang – and therefore everything in your body does as well. The shoulder pack allows you to do a pressing movement while also pulling your shoulders back thereby creating a more balanced movement. I can already hear you saying that this seems implausible but I guarantee you that it is not. Try the following exercise:
- Begin in a pushup position on the floor, or/ if you are a female try this standing with your hands on the kitchen bench so that your body is straight and at a 45 degree angle to the floor (make sure your feet don’t slip on the floor!)
- Your arms should be straight, and activate your core by pulling your belly button in towards your spine gently.
- The shoulder pack is achieved by pulling your shoulders back (sticking your chest out helps this) and then pull your shoulder blades down towards your bum. You should feel muscles activating directly between and below your shoulder blades. You need to link this feeling with the shoulder pack. Remember it!
- While maintaining C2C alignment, commence the pushup movement by allowing gravity to pull your body towards the ground, letting your elbows bend naturally and maintain the shoulder pack at all times. Try and FEEL the muscles in your back working throughout the pushup movement.
- Breath in as your body descends, always maintaining a strong core, and tense your abs and breathe out as you push yourself back up (Your back should not sway!)
- Aim for a 2:2 tempo – 2 seconds on the way down and 2 seconds on the way up.
This is a basic explanation of a pushup but should allow you to really FEEL the shoulder pack as you exercise.