The key to being a great Jedi master is being able to tap into the light side of the force although many tend to fall victim to the dark side. Likewise the key to developing a super strong body is making sure that you tap into mastering the health and strength of your shoulders.
And like some fall victim to the dark side many also fall victim to having a lack of shoulder stability and mobility during certain movements. Today I’m going to dive into this concept a little deeper so you can have some powerful, strong, and mobile shoulders for your big lifting days.
Shoulder Integrity: Packing The Shoulder
Whether you’ve been following this blog for a while or not you have probably read or heard me talk about the concept of shoulder packing. This is an essential part of stabilizing your shoulder during various movements in order to protect the joint from injury.
Without stating the obvious your shoulder is a mobile joint, however a mobile joint still must be stable during demanding activities in order to ensure its integrity. Shoulder packing is exactly how you go about doing this. The following video is an easy demonstration of how you can go about learning to pack your shoulder for greater integrity.
As you can see in the video the key to ensuring the stability of your shoulder joint is being able to consciously activate the surrounding musculature of your shoulder in order to secure it to your body. When your shoulder is lax, or is able to move too freely away from your body this is where instability can be present along with increasing the risk of injury.
In addition to this protection mechanism the act of shoulder packing also teaches you strength. The fact is that if you can more readily pack your shoulder and be aware of this during advanced movement and lifting then you are in essence better able to produce tension. Of course the more tension you can produce in certain movements the greater the production of strength!
Shoulder Integrity: Mobility vs. Stability During Strength
So now that we’ve got the concept of shoulder packing covered I want to talk about how you can easily progress this technique into the fabric of your training. Now I understand that there are many strength coaches and trainers that have different methods and protocols in terms of developing strong bodies, and even more specifically strong shoulders in an individual trainee. Nevertheless my goal here is to simply present a sound method for you to apply for yourself.
Now I’m not saying that the way I like to approach this is the end all solution, but I will say that I’m about to present a method that is sensible, logical, field tested and it has served me very well.
To start, I always like working to push a trainee to master their own body’s resistance during training before introducing too much external loading. This is the case at least in the beginning stages of training.
It’s simple…for the most part I like to tell my beginner students that they must earn the right to lift. Now moving from that when it comes to the shoulders I prefer getting a trainee strong and proficient in a series of closed kinetic chain movements. This is why I prefer to lean on push ups and other significant bodyweight resistance to prepare the trainee for mastering his or her resistance while grounded in a closed chain movement.
Now even looking at this with the standard push up people will generally still find a way to lose stability by falling into the trap of what I refer to as roostering. You can learn more about that here. In short, this involves collapsing the scapula and shoulder girdle when descending towards the ground during a push up where the head resembles that of a rooster strutting .
Even if you feel you’re pretty good with push ups you can still push the envelope for developing a greater level of stability and control of movement. For instance, you can tweak your push ups by performing variations that will challenge you to produce greater stability.
As an example I would challenge you to give some of these double to single arm push ups off a kettlebell a try. You’ll see what I mean when talking about having to harness a greater level of shoulder stability.
These are tremendous for challenging you to further pack your shoulder and to stabilize your joint along with your core midsection. Once you have gotten a solid grasp on the closed kinetic chain movements then you can look to start incorporating a variety of open kinetic chain movements such as barbell, dumbbell, and kettlebell presses.
The open chain movements will allow you to mobilize your shoulder a bit more in a variety of other ways, but at the same time you’ll be better able to produce the needed mobility and stability in order to perform the movements with greater proficiency.
Stay strong and keep training smart!
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