Learning how to support both weights and your own body will lead to better, stronger and safer movement. Weights will be more secure overhead and gymnastics movements will be more efficient and comfortable. Weightlifting and gymnastics can be very hard on the tendons and ligaments when too much force is being applied on them. Being mindful of our shoulder positioning will allow us to place the force in our muscles and bone structure where it is intended to be.
*Lift heavier weights and do pull-ups without hurting your neck, shoulders or back!
When told to engage or “activate” the shoulders most of us simply push up or shrug into the weight. That is only part of the job. We must first retract our shoulders down and back into our shoulder socket and then apply force into the opposite direction of the gravity. If a weight is over our head we must press up into the weight because gravity is pulling it down. When on a pull up bar you must shrug up because now you are the weight and gravity is pulling you down.
The final part of active shoulders is external rotation. By rotating the shoulders out you create more torque which allows for maximum support from your torso. When holding a bar (pull-up or barbell) think about snapping the bar in half like a stick, the hands should be pulling the bar apart. The armpits will be facing forward and the elbows will be pointing down. The weight should be just behind the ears with arms straight.
This applies to every movement we do in CrossFit. Push-ups, Cleans, Handstands, Rowing etc. Whenever we are using our arms and applying force the more stability and engaged the shoulders are the powerful the movement will be!
*What?- Shoulder Blades down and back, Fight against gravity, Turn the armpits forward!
Problems with active shoulders are mostly caused by either lack of mobility in the shoulders, lats and thoracic spine,or lack of strength in the rotator cuff. Both of these can be fixed overtime with consistent work. Here are a few drills/movements to add into your warm-ups and cool downs:
Thoracic Spine Opener
Banded Lat stretch
Rolling out with Foam Roller or a Lacrosse ball
Scapular Pull ups
Ask a coach to go over any of these movements if you have questions. Find one (or a few) that work for you!