Ask the Doc: The Shoulder Rules

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by KYLE SELA | PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS

Rule 1. When your elbow is near or moving towards your body, bring your shoulder blade back and down into the “set position.”

Rule 1. When your elbow is near or moving towards your body, bring your shoulder blade back and down into the “set position.”

[W]e need to place the shoulder in an optimal position so that we don’t put too much stress on any one part of the shoulder
The elbow is the best indicator of where your shoulder is positioned. The higher the elbow is, the more the shoulder has elevated. The more the point of your elbow is out to the side (pointed laterally) the more the shoulder is internally rotated, etc. So, as the rule states, when you are performing a movement and your elbow is near your side, you need to bring your shoulder blade back and down. In the sports medicine and strength and conditioning worlds, this scapular position is often called the “set” position. The idea here is that we need to place the shoulder in an optimal position so that we don’t put too much stress on any one part of the shoulder and that our muscles and joints are in the optimal place to perform.

Rule 1. When your elbow is near or moving towards your body, bring your shoulder blade back and down into the “set position.”

What typically happens with inexperience, mobility issues, or poor control is that as the elbows move towards the body (i.e. top of the pull-up or bottom of the push up), the shoulder blades tip forward as well as up towards the ears putting a great amount of stress and strain on the front and top of the shoulder. This is bad. Picture yourself at the bottom of your push-up position: your shoulders should be pulled back away from the ground and also down away from your ears. This is good. Same goes with the pull-up: as you near the top of your pull-up, the elbows are coming towards your side so your shoulder blades need to be pulled back and down. Get it?

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