Yoga Push Up - Unveil the Hidden Truth about Your Shoulder Health and Core Stability
One of the most common reasons athletes make their way into my office is because of shoulder pain. Pain is almost always in the front of the shoulder and complaints are often that it is exacerbated with overhead lifting or pressing movements. Is this you??
Why you might ask? There can be many reasons for shoulder pain...but for today let's talk about how the role of your scapulae acts as a key player to shoulder health and function.
The shoulder is a complex joint. With out getting crazy about anatomical terms, let's just think of it as a ball and socket joint. You have a shoulder blade (scapula) and a great big long upper arm bone (humerus).
And when it comes to pain and why it happens think of a jack in the box....
In order for the Jack to come out the lid needs to lift off right....what happens if the lid doesn't open?
Jack is going to slam into the top, because there is no space for him to get out! Or if it opens half way, Jack is going to ram his way through it to get out. Think of your shoulder blade as the hinging door and Jack as your humerus.
The shoulder blade is meant to move in many different directions. It needs to move toward the spine (retraction), away from the spine (protraction), upwards towards the ears (elevation), down towards the butt (depression) and rotate upwards.
The elevation and rotating upwards is where many athletes or people who sit at their computers all day are missing. What happens is the shoulder blade almost gets "stuck". So when you do arm movements, if the shoulder blade doesn't move then there is no "space" created for the humerus to move. What ends up happening is it tends to get jammed. Repetitive "jamming" of these bones is what leads to compensatory patterns and pain.
So how can you test your ability for the shoulder blade to upwardly rotate on your own? Take your camera out and video tape your Yoga Push Up. The ability to push away at a 45 degree angle will give away any differences left vs right, the ability for the shoulder blade to upwardly rotate, your core stability, your strength and even your ankle mobility! If you really want to get into it...take your shirt off so you can actually see your shoulder blades....are they upwardly rotating? Or are they stuck? If you can't lift yourself off the floor, then you may want to consider getting your core to fire efficiently. An efficiently firing core (reflexive stability) is crucial for shoulder health. But that's for another article.
Yoga Push Up - it's not push up then down dog - you have to push away from the floor at a 45 degree angle!
I'm totally serious when I say it's been my experience that shoulder pain can be significantly reduced and often times completely taken away by proper exercise selection and quality movements.
If you are experiencing shoulder pain now while exercising here are some quick tips you can try:
Start pressing and pulling properly. One of the biggest mistakes I see is simply continuously using poor mechanics while doing pressing and pulling. No need for me to do a video on this, watch this 8 minute video from Eric Cressey on key points for pressing and pulling. Do the simple things well!
Exercise Selection - For your pressing and pulling exercises choose movements that allow the shoulder blade to move freely. For example, when you do a bench press, the shoulder blades are jammed into the bench. Instead try a standing or half kneeling cable press as is shown in the video above. Or try this half kneeling land mine press for your overhead movements. Don't get away from the half kneeling position. This is going to help get your core firing while you press overhead - specifically the down leg glute. When we talk shoulder and core - it's all connected.
Warm up with breathing and T-Spine Mobility drills - How your thoracic spine and rib cage function directly effect shoulder health. Getting a 3 dimensional breath will help you achieve a great alignment with rib cage over the pelvis (no rib flare or big pelvic tilt forward). Read this great article from Arrow Physical Therapy - Close Your Bowls.
Check out this 90/90 breathing drill
Then follow up with getting the Thoracic spine moving with this drill - side lying rib grabs. How the shoulder blade functions is directly related to how well your upper back can move both in extension and rotation. Can you get your shoulder blade to the ground without the knee lifting off the roller??
In closing think about this:
Great Alignment + Great Mobility + Great Stability + Great Movement = Happy Shoulders
If you want to learn more about how the shoulder blade moves and functions with your arm, watch this 4 minute video from Eric Cressey....but remember...just think Jack in the Box - it can get confusing with all the anatomical terms:-)