Another reason why your Shoulders are jacked and not JACKED.

Last time I posted I gave two major reasons why your shoulders are Jacked and not JACKED.

If the way you live your life is dictated by the pace of which technology evolves (by that I mean you’re too impatient to read the previous article), here is the short version:

  1. Your technique is compromised.
  2. You ignore your mobility and tissue quality.

That is as far as I am going to expand upon these points. If you want more information, then just read the other article. HINT: Read the other article.

For the sake of efficiency, here is another reason why your shoulders are JACKED and not jacked.

Your program is wrong

Let me clarify this point: it is how your program is structured that is wrong. As a lecturer at a well-known Fitness Education Institution, it is a frequent topic of conversation to talk about programming imbalances. Upon speaking to my Strength and Conditioning colleagues (Cameron Burnside has some great insight into the Bench Press) it is not uncommon to see said imbalances pertaining to the upper body.

Upon closer inspection of most training programs (in particular with the body building community), it is not uncommon to see a disproportionate preponderance towards pushing exercises. As a result of such bro-culture inspired programming, many of these “bros” develop muscular imbalances. This includes overactive/stiff pecs and weak/inhibited upper back musculature, which then results in painful shoulders.

To counteract this, many fitness professionals will advocate more pulling based exercises compared to pushing based exercises – often in a ratio of 2:1 or even 3:1. In even simpler terms, they’ll try to “offset” their “bench debt” with two to three pulling exercises.

Whilst I have no quarrel, with this stance (it is definitely a step in the right direction – Anterior/Posterior Imbalances are vitally important to address) there is another less obvious and more insidious imbalance that needs addressing:

Superior/inferior imbalances.

What this means is that people aren’t giving credence to the imbalances between Upward and Downward Scapular Rotation.

At Ascension Performance Labs, we’re constantly seeing and treating more and more athletes (but also in the general public as well) with overly depressed shoulders. This is detrimental to our Olympic Weightlifters whose performance is utterly dependent on their ability to balance equal to or greater than two times their body weight overhead. If their downward rotators of the scapulae (Levator Scapulae, Rhomboids and especially Latissimus Dorsi) are overly active this will change the congruency and synergy between the scapulae, humeral head, glenoid fossa and acromion process for the worse.

This information isn’t just pertinent for athletes either. It is for the general public. We as Fitness Professionals have been drilling into our clients for years: “SHOULDERS BACK AND DOWN!” And having taught many of Australia’s Fitness Professionals (I am doing my best to clarify this cue) it is still being taught and used as the gold standard. If we perpetuate this locking of the shoulders back and down into this position we are training our shoulders into this depressed position.

In cases like this, it would be advisable to do some dedicated upper trap work. (Put your damn barbell down and stop doing shrugs. That’s not what I mean, unless it is relevant to your sport i.e. Olympic Weightlifting, then carry on).

Exercises such as wall slide or lat length raises (see some future blogs for ideas) would be more beneficial as they truly cue upward rotation of the scapula.

It might be worth reducing exercises like heavy farmer carries or deadlifts or anything that requires lengthy dumbbell holds as they increase scapula depression, and replace them with bottoms up kettlebell carries, Goblet squats or clean grip reverse lunges.

These are just some ideas on reducing the times spent in Scapular/Shoulder Depression.

However, changing your programming, may not guarantee your shoulders won’t be jacked (“Hang on, you’re telling me that my shoulders are jacked and not jacked but even if I change my program, my shoulder will still be jacked and not jacked? What the hell? You’re the worst coach in the world…), you may have to take a multi-faceted approach: There are many aspects that we consider when improving performance, some of them may not have anything to do with the shoulder:

  • Poor thoracic spine mobility
  • Faulty breathing patterns
  • Opposing hip and ankle restrictions

They can all have an affect on how jacked your shoulders are. But those ideas are a story for another day. (If you don’t like it, too bad. Just wait for the next article to come out).


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