By Miguel J. Ortiz
The shoulder is arguably one of the most intricate joints in the body. One of the reasons for this is that the muscle groups in the surrounding area can have a serious effect on how it moves.
For example, if your pectoralis (chest) muscles or latissimus dorsi (lats) are tight you may have rounded shoulders which will affect reaching over head. If you have tight trapezius (traps), it will not only raise your shoulders up but have a drastic effect on how you reach in all directions. The traps are an area where people tend to carry stress. These muscles are located to the side, back of the neck and upper body.
The point is that these surrounding muscles heavily affect the shoulder joint. Where does posture come into play? Posture is important because it impacts those major muscles groups and a lot of that comes from general movement. So, if you’re having shoulder issues it makes sense to try and fix or focus on that area directly. However, to make sure we have some quality shoulder mobility, let’s look at our posture. Let’s check off these three daily musts dos to make sure the pain isn’t being aggravated by poor posture.
First, are we utilizing our core properly? We already understand that slouching isn’t good however we continue to do it. It’s usually not practiced because it’s not as often thought about and we’re pretty distracted. So, to open up the chest and lengthen your core, begin in a seated position. Place your hands on your chest with a clenched fist as if your superman and your ripping open your shirt. While doing so extended your arms down to the floor making the letter A and reach with your fingers opening your hand. Make sure not to arch the lower back but rather (while taking a deep breath) draw your navel in and get tall instead of arching. We want to practice this at least 20 times a day.
We want to take this next move to the floor. Start in a quadruped position (hands and knees) on the floor. These are yoga moves that involve doing a “cat” pose and “cow” pose. We want to practice our breathing while preforming both movements and do it slow and under control. This will not only stretch the back but also help the shoulder stretch the shoulder blades which will help relax the shoulders. Do 20 reps of each movement daily. Find a YouTube video of these yoga poses at youtu.be/EX3eZOi-YBU.
Third, we need to foam roll our lats. I have had a lot of clients with tight shoulders and most people I have worked with were not regularly stretching or foam rolling there lats properly. This can internally rotate the shoulder and cause other impingements during movement. So, grab your favorite foam roller, lay your side on the roller just underneath the arm pit, thumbs to the ceiling and if rolling your right arm your right leg should be straight or lightly bent, also on the floor with your left leg pushing to guide you up and down the roller. Use your left arm to guide you as well and monitor pressure to ensure tolerability. Do this for 5 minutes a day on each arm. A YouTube video of these exercise can be found online at youtu.be/i-gYAkuYzDI.
Practice these three habits daily and continue to think more about your posture and breathing and your shoulders will be well on their way to better health and movement.
Miguel J. Ortiz is a personal trainer in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a member of the National Personal Trainer Institute and a Certified Nutritional Consultant with more than a decade of professional experience. He can be found on Instagram at @migueljortiz.