Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Scap Swings for Tough Shoulders

Having healthy shoulders is the key to longevity in the world of weight-lifting. Thats a reality. For anyone that has suffered a painful shoulder, I feel for you. We know that EVERY upper-body movement (between the neck and waist) performed will affect a bad shoulder. Whether it is extending the arms back during a skull-crusher or benching with a barbell--it hurts! The pain is a constant reminder that you are not 100%. I know, I have been there. I've experienced shoulder pain and ultimately, rotator cuff surgery at the tender age of 26. I felt like a lost puppy in the forest of weight-trees. However, after 6-8 months of post-surgery rehabilitation and training, I bounced back.
Lately I have been performing a dynamic scapular mobility drill to enhance the proprioceptive and deceleration of the scapular muscles. It has done wonders for my overall upper-body development, and has kept my shoulders "out of trouble". It has helped my ability to retract and depress my shoulder girdle during upper-body movements. If you think about it this way...the anterior (front) muscles like the pectorals, deltoids, and biceps perform explosively during lifts away from the body. It is the job of the posterior to "put the brakes on" during such powerful movements. These muscles include the entire back (upper, mid, lower), trapezius, and triceps. It is during these pressing or pushing movements where the scapular muscles must "brake" adequately to save the humerus from causing harm to the rotator cuff muscles. 

I came up with "Hanging Scap Swings". Funny how simple things hanging off a high object can be beneficial when thought out and performed with intent. 

Please be advised that you should NOT have any pre-existing shoulder pain when performing this mobility drill.
Execution: Find a high bar and stand directly underneath it. The bar should be at least 12-14" higher than your overall height. You will want to outstretch the arms above you and grasp the bars. If the bar is not that high off the ground, bend the knees. With a firm pronated grip, keep your feet "lightly" in contact with the ground. Swing your body forward and back in quick swings, keeping the muscles "stiff" and contracted. You should not have any "loose-ness" in your shoulders when performing this exercise. Perform 8-10 swings.

Reason: The external rotators (teres minor & infraspinatus) of the scapula must learn how to decelerate powerful movements. Hanging Scap Swings are ideal because the lifter controls the velocity of each swing and can easily feel these muscles at work. This drill is specific for anyone who participates in throwing, racket sports, or swimming. 

Key points: Try to keep the movement from the shoulders. Do not bend the elbows. Gradually increase the speed as you become more acclimated to the nature of the movement. This drill can be performed before your workout or several times during the day. It is also a good stretch for those that sit at a desk for lengthy periods.


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