Monday, April 23, 2012

Half Kneel Overhead Shoulder Chop

In 2005, I had a surgery performed on my left shoulder called an acromioplasty. Basically, the surgeon goes into the shoulder joint arthroscopically, and shaves down the end of the arcomium called the acromoium process. Knowing what I know now, I probably didn't need the surgery, but I was in pain for 6-8 months and I was getting tired of living with the constant pain. I was working as a personal trainer for a large commercial gym and my shoulder pain was inhibiting my ability to demonstrate certain movements and exercises. The goal of an acromiopasty is to shave down any bony protrusion that may be coming into contact with the rotator cuff muscles/tendons during movements. The more space to move around in, the better chance the rotator cuff tendons will not "rub" against the acomimum process. 

In simple terms,  the procedure is a "robbing Peter to pay Paul". The premise is to take away from a structure, so that another structure can operate more efficiently. Like the door that doesn't slide easily within a door jam,  a repairman would file down the part of the door that is causing friction. Not exactly a great comparison, but you can see how integrity is compromised.

What I wish I knew then
If more patience was practiced, I probably could have strengthened the scapular retractors and depressors before it became too painful enough to do so. I would have included drills like this:

The rotator cuff muscles ability to "grip" the head of the humerus is important in shoulder joint action. A very common problem is when the rotator cuff muscles become too weak due to neglect in training or irritability in overhead pressing movements. When inflammation occurs, its only a matter of time before movements become painful and consistent exercise does not stay so consistent.

The scapular depressors and retractors must be strong in order to anchor down the scapular complex during overhead activity. They provide the "anchor" and rigidity for the rotator cuff muscle complex to do their job effectively. Once strong, the ability of the shoulders to perform overhead activity in a variety of planes adds a hint of spice to your training program.

Enter the Overhead Cable Shoulder Chop

Why I Like this Exercise: Truthfully, I have been toying around with this exercise recently and love how the entire shoulder complex is engaged. You have scapular upward/downward rotation and horizontal flexion/extension with frontal and saggital plane involvement. Place the body in a 1/2 kneel position and you have some core stability at work. The Cook stick attachment is great with this exercise because it allows the user to perform a small pull with initiation and then a big push on the opposing side. 

What You Need Before Doing this Exercise: First and foremost, you need pain-free shoulders. I'm not going to lie to you,  this exercise puts the shoulders in a very precarious position and if you already exhibit poor shoulder function (ie: excessive protraction, humeral head displacement, and weak mid-traps), you will  butcher your shoulders. If you have years under your belt training and performing some corrective exercise for the area and have ZERO pain,  this exercise will be beneficial. You will also need strong core bracing capabilities. In the video, I am using 30 pounds and my hips still tend to lag from left to right, but I can assure you my core is fully engaged--especially as the stick is pushed above my head. If you lack a strong core musculature, I recommend you dial it back and add in your basic planks and pallof presses to tidy up the area. 

Some Coaching Cues: I like the half-kneel position. I have not tried this exercise standing or in a tall-kneel position. But, if you do try it in a half kneel position, make sure to plantar-flex the back foot (as seen in the video at the :25 mark). This allows the lower body some rigidity and helps engage the core. Secondly, pick a comfortable grip distance. This will allow easy glide for your shoulders. Thirdly, make sure to keep the stick on the side of your head. Your biceps should brush up against the side of your head as the stick is lowered on the opposing side. If the stick comes out to the front of the body, it becomes a chest recruitment press.

Hope this helps and let me know what you think!


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