Shoulder Openers

Training Tips for Chicks

Installment #1
By: Carolyn Parker

These days it seems everyone wants to find that perfect new, secret, fancy, ultra-trick training tip that will instantly make them better, fitter, faster, and stronger. I see it all the time in fitness and outdoor sport magazines. The truth is none of those uber cool tips and tricks will work if the athlete doesn’t have a really solid foundation of balanced strength and range of motion to launch from.

The top three issues I see in my athletes both elite and recreational are: limited ROM in the shoulders in conjunction with scapular area weakness causing poor posture, core weakness especially in the posterior chain (from the neck to the glutes) and under utilized or weak glutes in general.

In this post, I am not only going to suggest, but will challenge everyone to take a step back, let go of all those things that you think you should be doing that are sport specific and go back to the beginning. Let’s talk foundation, the bigger the foundation the greater the performance. We all “know” it, but can we make ourselves do it.

Here’s your first bit of home work, begin doing these movements daily. Try them before you run, bike, climb, strength train, or even to break up the day at work.

Movement 1:

Shoulder Openers – shoulder flexibility and range of motion (ROM).

Grab a piece of PVC, a broom stick even a yoga strap. With proper standing posture, i.e. – Standing upright, lift toes off the ground so your weight rocks back onto your heels. Activate your quads, glutes, and abdominals. Grab the PVC, hold the PVC in your hands with a fairly wide grip, straighten your arms holding the PVC at chest height. Then as you activate your arms to keep them straight, retract your shoulder blades and keep them pinching throughout the entire ROM. Raise the PVC from chest height, to over head and if you have adequate ROM all the way behind the head and back till it rests on your butt. Then raise the PVC back up and over the head and return it to the front of the body with out loosing the squeeze between the shoulder blades and without bending the arms. The width of the grip should be modified based on flexibility and ROM in the shoulders.

2 – 3 sets of 8

Movement 2:

Modified Cuban Press – rotator cuff strengthening and posture correction, with scapular area strengthening, and overhead ROM.

With the same standing posture as just described for the shoulder openers, hold light dumbbells in your hands, arms at your sides, retract/squeeze your shoulder blades together, then raise your elbows up toward the ceiling stopping just as elbows almost reach shoulder height. Arms should be at a 90 degree bend, hands still pointing toward the floor. Squeeze shoulder blades again as a reminder and hinge the hands up till knuckles are pointing at the ceiling. One last squeeze of those shoulder blades, press the hands toward the ceiling until the arms are straight hands directly over the shoulders. Try to maintain the squeeze between the shoulder blades during this entire ROM – it is often very hard to do. Reverse the movement to start position.

2 – 3 sets of 5

Movement 3:

The wall squat. If I ask most people if they can squat properly the answer is usually yes. However, the truth is not really. As we age, and live a largely seated existence, desks, cars, chairs, couches, we not only slouch but we rapidly loose strength in our posterior chain. So try this next time you warm up. A proper squat is defined by the nose, knees and toes all staying in line in a vertical plane with correct alignment of the spine. Facing the wall, toes touching or nearly touching the wall, stand with feet hip/shoulder width apart, chin level (do not look up the wall), arms out the the sides and begin to squat by leading back with the sit bones. Keep a nice forward curve in your lumbar spine (i.e. do not round the back). See if you can squat to quads parallel. Have a friend watch, or place a med ball behind you as a depth target to make sure you get down low enough. The wall acts as the gate keeper so to speak to keep you properly aligned. For most people this is a difficult motion initially but gets easier and ensures that one maintains correct posture and alignment when executing all standing, lifting, lunging, jumping movements, during a workout or just daily life.

3 – 5 sets of 5

Next month we’ll add a few more basic movements and begin a discussion of positive effects of strength conditioning and how to get stronger without getting bigger. We will also learn how to further activate classically weak areas in all athletes.

Signing off for now,
Carolyn Parker
Founder Ripple Effect Training
Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor
AMGA Certified Rock Guide

Athlete representative for:
Mammut, Julbo