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Forging Elite Fitness After 40: The Daily Fix for the Aging Master Athletes

3. Shoulder

Considering that many of the CrossFit exercises involve an overhead position, it isn’t uncommon to have this same athlete complain of pains and dysfunction their shoulder as well. If we continue with the idea that the parts of our skeleton are all inter-connected then we can start at the pelvis to understand why a shoulder might hurt in someone who has hips that are uneven.

Remember that the pelvis attaches to the sacrum (tailbone) and the sacrum is an extension of the spine. The sacrum will change its alignment with the direction of the hike of the hip. Since we know that the sacrum is an extension of the lumbar vertebrae, this will ultimately have an effect on the entire spine and all things attached to it.

Essentially what happens is a bend that is created in part or throughout the spine. When we understand that the rib-cage attaches at the thoracic vertebrae and that the scapula sits on the back of it, we can easily understand that hip position can influence shoulder position and function.

bent spine

“Everything is connected.”

If there is bend in the spine that continues from the lumbar region into the thoracic region it will often push the scapula upward and outwards. Effectively what occurs is a poorly functioning scapula which limits the mobility and stability of the shoulder to do things like lifting the arm overhead.

What to look for:

Watch the height of the bar from left to right when pressing overhead. If you see one side that is clearly higher than the other, let that be a clue that the scapula isn’t moving too well. Check to see the shoulders are protracted. Being able to slide your hand underneath the border of the scapula is an indication that your scapula is poorly positioned.

The daily fix: A protracted shoulder will also be internally rotated, which presents a problem for getting into an overhead position. Chronically in protracted and internally rotated position weakens that the external rotators of the shoulder. First try relax the anterior structures of pectoralis and anterior deltoid with either a soccer or softball. Then try to fire up the weakened external rotators, by performing some banded pull-a-parts.

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When it comes to movement it really isn’t always a matter of just “doing it.” Sometimes there are positions that the structure of our body just isn’t going to allow. Our brain is so magnificent that will run through many structural barriers to get the job done. The end result typically means more pain and less performance.


Follow Jeremy McCann on Range of motion. 

Photos: author’s archive 

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