Updated: Mar 30, 2022
In its most simplistic form, optimal human movement relies heavily on the inter-relation of three things: mobility, stability, and strength.
What often happens however is that one component receives way too much attention in a standard training programme; that being strength.
I get it, you want to get strong, but what so many people don't understand is that 'functional' strength and injury resilience relies on mobility and stability.
Often people don't have great mobility, however the part of our movement trilogy that consistently gets dealt the worst hand is stability.
If we use the analogy of an orchestra; the imbalance between strength and stability is like one section playing way too loud and fast. For arguments sake let's say it's the guys and girls sat in the brass section holding their huge horns (referring specifically to their musical instruments!). If they don't keep time, tempo or volume in line with everyone else, we go from symphony to cacophony.
Function and performance of the upper limb in an athletic environment depends on your ability to keep the ball on the socket and the socket on the ball. It is the stabilisation system, the small muscles close to the joint such as the rotator cuff, that holds primary responsibility for this job.
If your training programme focuses too heavily on strength, and your stability system becomes underpowered, it becomes much more challenging to maintain high quality shoulder function. When this happens we often see the emergence of sub-optimal movement patterns and this is often the cause of pain and instability.
For 'strong' people with a good training background, it’s not that they’re necessarily weak when it comes to stability, but it’s relative. They are overpowered and under stabilised.
Think about your shoulders like a chassis on a car. Strength is like the engine horsepower. If you try and put a Ferrari engine in a budget rental hatchback, you're going to have a problem. What you need to do is build a Ferrari chassis first and then put a Ferrari engine in it. Do this and you have a system that can work.
So what action can you put in place after reading this blog? Firstly find ways in your training to scale dynamic stability so you can handle the chaos that comes with training and sport. Whether you're preparing for the rugby pitch, CrossFit, bodybuilding or pure strength training, success in each relies on you being able to create force under varying intensities.
Your ability to create that force is optimised when you can position the ball on the socket and the socket on the ball (dynamic stability) more effectively.
Do this and you are going to tick off the biggest determining factor in achieving long term pain-free progression.
To summarise; progressive overload is not just a strength thing. If you want to scale performance, you need to respect the design of the shoulder.
WHERE TO START?
SHOULDER HEALTH ONLINE TRAINING PROGRAMME
Our 8-week online shoulder health training programme is designed to give you everything you need so your shoulders will feel great, move well with precision and be better able to handle progressive overload.
Each week, you’ll get 3 new exercises covering: mobility, stability, and strength. It’s a minimal effective dose approach, so it can easily fit in with your current training plan.
Here is week one for you to try. Let us know how you get on.
Mobility // Self-massage pecs and anterior shoulder
Equipment: massage ball or roller
Reps: 2 minutes on each side
Tempo: Hold and gentle undulation
Find the painful areas. Relax and let your body sink onto the ball or roller.
Stability // Side lying external rotation
Equipment: dumbbell, light weight or resistance band
Reps: 12 – 20
Sets: 2 – 3
Rest: Alternate arms
Use a rolled towel between the elbow and the body to optimise the position. During the movement, pause in the top position for 2 seconds and then work hard to control the lowering phase for a count of 4. Once you hit 20 reps, scale intensity using a heavier weight.
Strength // High hip bear crawl
Reps: 10 – 20 metres
Sets: 3 – 4
Rest: 60 seconds
How to scale:
1. Increase distance
2. Pause with hand and foot off the ground
3. Add a weight vest
4. Increase volume and multi-directional challenge by combining forwards and sideways patters