Take the Weight Off Your Shoulders

January 16, 2017 – 7:57 am

You’ve been unconsciously taught a shoulder position for your entire life, with elbows wide and shoulder blades shrugged. It’s in a “traditional” push-up, it infects bench press and it has become the posture of “backpack culture.” Due to evolutionary biology, chronic and acute stress instantly and semi-permanently, shrug your shoulders upward to protect your neck.

Yet, it’s the least biomechanically sound joint position and accounts for almost all pain and injuries to the neck and shoulders. There is a fix to it, but it won’t happen until you remain aware, focus attention on it, and develop a deliberate practice about optimal shoulder “pack.”

In the 90s, I coined the mechanical imperative, “Pack Your Shoulder” as a coaching cue; and although many in the functional fitness realm have adopted it, it still faces significant resistance.

Why? As you learn in Stress Physiology, the “unpacked” (or loose-packed) shoulder position, with flared elbows and shoulders shrugged, is a part of your innate response to stress called the Moro Reflex. - genetically designed to protect your neck, as an infant, from whiplash and, as an adult, to make you appear more fearsome (and not prey).

Unfortunately, it’s a immediate survival reflex, not a performance or a longevity strategy. As a result, shoulder pain is one of the most common orthopedic conditions diagnosed and treated in today‚Äôs medical community.

Optimal shoulder position, called Close-Packed Shoulder Position, is the most centered position of the head of the humerus in the glenoid fossa; a combination of external rotation of the glenohumeral joint and depression, downward rotation and retraction of the scapulae.

3 Steps to Shoulder Pack:

  1. Un-Shrug your shoulders. Pull your shoulders down toward the ground, as if carrying two suitcases of equal weight. The goal is to do this without weighted carry, so that you don’t have to actively “depress” your shoulders down. But because of chronic stress and bad posture, most people have a constant shoulder shrug.
  2. Roll your shoulders backward. Most people have their shoulders rolled forward (anteriorily), causing their elbows to flare out away from their ribs. When your shoulders are rolled backward into “pack” your arms hang effortlessly at your sides, parallel with your centerline.
  3. Pull your shoulder blades together, but don’t pinch them. This is an active but not tense balance. Think of where your shoulder blades would slide, if you lifted, and didn’t cave, your chest downward. This retraction (or absence of protraction) happens from naturally correcting #1 and #2.

Shoulder Pack can be used in every movement involving the upper body, which is why I built it into every exercise in the Circular Strength Training (CST) and Tactical Fitness (TACFIT) milieu in order to compensate for the rampant postural distortions caused by chronic stress.

Even one program from CST and TACFIT could save you from surgery, remove your chronic shoulder and neck pain and instantly switch on neuromuscular strength that you’ve had cut off for years. It will take time to change your posture, about 2-3 months, and close-pack your shoulders again. But the effects will last you a lifetime pain-free.

Very Respectfully,

Scott B. Sonnon

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