Posts Tagged ‘external rotations’

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I did a workout on some sand dunes. And part of the workout involved wearing a weighted vest. Since that post I’ve had the chance to throw the vest on a few more times and have noticed something interesting that I hadn’t considered earlier. I learned that running sand dunes helped fix my shoulders.

At this point you might be wondering ‘what did I miss?’ He was talking about running sand dunes and now is switching over to talking about improved shoulder function. How the heck are these two related? Let me explain.

In my younger days I used to train as a bodybuilder. I bought the magazines, took the supplements and performed the isolated, single joint exercises bodybuilders love in order to feel the muscle. After a few years of this my joints weren’t loving me so much. Particularly my shoulders and my AC joint specifically.

You see I was in the habit of doing ‘mirror workouts’. Biceps, chest, traps, abs, quads etc or anything you could see when you looked in the mirror. As a result I had a pretty unbalanced physique with way too much open-chain pressing motions, too many upper trap exercises and too many internal rotation exercises.

And as long as I continued with my ‘mirror workouts’ I continued to have issues with my shoulders. I’m not sure which came first but eventually I realized I wouldn’t be 250 lbs and 4 % bodyfat and that there was a smarter, safer and more effective way to train. I start to balance out the back side of physique and added in some external rotations to realign my shoulders.

And things improved quite a bit. I could press heavy weight. There was no soreness or discomfort but I learned something that showed me I wasn’t all the way there. And it had to do with how I was breathing.

You see all the years of upright rows, shrugs and basically anything that lifted the shoulders to the ears was stimulating my upper traps and levators. So I developed over active ‘shrugging-type’ muscles. And when I was fatigued I would take deep breaths and my chest would rise and fall. Since I had over-active traps and levators when I need to get air I would fire these muscles first, as I had trained them so often, and consequently my chest would lift and fall. But this isn’t the way we should breath.

If we take a deep breath properly our chest and shoulders shouldn’t move. Instead we should notice the movement at the stomach as the diaphragm pulls down as we inhale and rises as we exhale.

When I was wearing the weighted vest I secured the vest as tightly as possible around my torso. And since the vest is pulled on over the head it rests on the shoulders. As I began to fatigue I realized I needed to get air but couldn’t do so by lifting my shoulders and expanding my chest due to the constriction of the vest. The only alternative to me was to relax my chest and breath properly through my stomach and diaphragm.

Before you rush out to throw on a vest and experience this yourself practice breathing through your stomach and diaphragm. Look to minimize and eliminate the involvement of the chest and shoulders. And lastly, pay attention to the impact this new breathing style has on the health of your shoulders.