Over 80% of Crossfit workouts involve the shoulder. Many CrossFit exercises are shoulder intensive and our shoulders are not weight bearing joints like our hips and knees. Immobility or muscles imbalance can lead to potential pitfalls with compound movements. Some common exercises like the overhead press, snatches, burpees, thrusters, pull-ups and dips are tough exercises. However, they are also a great selection of functional exercises used to improve strength and mobility.

The Anatomy

The shoulder joint consists of two joints, the glenohumeral joint and the acromioclavicular joint and is the most flexible joint in the body. Although both of these joints are held together by extensive ligament and muscle attachments, certain types of force can easily weaken the shoulder. The shoulder joint is vulnerable to dislocations from sudden jerks of the arm. The rotator cuff consists of four main muscles, the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis muscles. These muscles help center the joint, move the shoulder into up, down, rotate and lift the arm. The thoracic spine and the scapula (shoulder blade) also play important roles in optimal shoulder performance. If the thoracic spine lacks extension ( bending backward), overhead movements may suffer and undue stress can be placed on the shoulder.

Common issues that affect the shoulder

One of the most common movement issues we see is called upper cross syndrome. This occurs when the pec muscles are short and tight, the upper trapezius is overactive and the rotator cuff muscles do not stabilize the shoulder properly. This can lead to rotator cuff tendonitis, bicipital tendinitis, impingement syndrome, labral tears and/or frozen shoulder just to name a few.

Prevention and Self Treatment of Shoulder Conditions

  1. Lacrosse Ball Self MassagePlace tennis/racquet/lacrosse ball against the wall and lean the chest against the ball so that it is providing pressure into the pectoral muscles
    Roll back and forth under the collarbone and bulk of the pectorals and search for tender spots. Once tender spots are found you may hold on this spot and then pull the arm backwards to increase the stretch.
  2. Open Book. Lying on your side, arms straight out in front of you. Keeping arms straight, move top arm away from bottom and try to reach back of hand to opposite side of mat while keeping lower half still (legs don’t move)
  3. Reach, roll & lift with pattern assistance
    1. Begin with your legs together with bottom on heels and forearms together on the floor.
    2. Place band to hand while other end is fastened to a pole/door above head.
    3. Slide the forearm straight out (with the band).
    4. Once at end range, turn hand up towards ceiling.
    5. Use your lower trap to begin to lift hand off of the floor, the band tension should assist this motion.
    6. Once at end range, hold for 10 seconds, and return the arm to the floor.
    7. Turn hand/forearm back to a neutral position and slide back towards your body.
  4. -Resisted Supine Flexion Extension. Grab a piece of resistance band with each hand. While keeping your arms straight, move one arm up (flexion) and one arm down (extension) and then squeeze your shoulder blades together. During the exercise, maintain a low shoulder position.
  5. -Resisted Supine T’s. Lie on your back with your legs extended and together. Hold onto some resistance tubing with your hands about shoulder width apart (the closer they are the hard the exercise will be). Start by bringing both of your arms (elbows locked) straight out to your sides with your palms facing up, forming the letter “T” with your body. Return to the start position and repeat.
  6. -Test and Retest. Utilizing the selective functional movement assessment (SFMA) we can evaluate proper biomechanics and use a joint-by-joint approach to alleviate a mobility or stability issue. Coupling spine mobility, shoulder mobility, single leg stance and the overhead squat to create a global picture of your functional movement capacity.