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The Unhooked Shoulder

29 February 2012 | 5:00 pm

Sarah Ellis

Doctor of Physical Therapy & "super athletes" trainer

The shoulder is an area of frequent injury, and whether the cause is from kiting or the mouse on your computer, a few simple exercises can help keep you safe. When you think about a strong, stable shoulder, a picture comes to mind of the kiter that can ride unhooked down the line steering the kite with one hand, or stomp that blind judge.

In order to gain a strong shoulder that can handle the unhooked moves, you need to actually forget about the shoulder and focus on the scapula. The shoulder is made up of small rotator cuff muscles that provide support and stability, but the large muscles in the midback that control the scapula actually provide support and strength to the shoulder.

Think about doing a pull up. Do you use the small muscles in your shoulder, or the large ones of your upper back? For a great test of shoulder strength, try a pull up and see where you feel the work being done. The top of your shoulders should be relaxed while the upper back muscles do the work.

It’s these strong upper back muscles that connect with your core and hips to control your body movements while unhooked. Someone who does not utilize these upper back muscles but simply relies on the small muscles in their shoulders ends up with the bar getting away from their body, which decreases control.

2 Types of Pull Up Tests:

• You should be able to do an equal number of horizontal pull ups to push ups.
• You should feel this exercise in your upper/mid back region between your shoulder blades (scapula).
• Try and relax the top of your shoulders and your lower back. These 2 areas will cheat if your scapula muscles are weak.
• Muscles at work: Rhomboids and Middle and Lower Traps

• The upper traps (top of the shoulder) do not contract. There is a lot of space between the shoulders and the ears.
• If the upper traps contract for this motion, it will cause dysfunction within the joint, that eventually leads to shoulder pain.
• The muscles underneath the arm do the movement, this is where you should feel the exercise working. Not in the top of your shoulder.


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