Go to any sport and exercise journal and you will find the majority of strength and performance training research is focused on the lower body. Maybe it's because the shoulder is complicated and doesn't lend itself well to reductionism meaning that designing a solid methodology is challenging.
The question I would like to ask therefore is, do we apply lower body thinking to upper body training?
For example, coaches will be confident that 5 reps x 5 sets is effective at stimulating a maximal strength adaptation. So let's rack a heavy barbell ready for a military press and off we go right?
Maybe, however I would like to suggest there are some shoulder factors we need to consider first because I'd bet my bottom dollar that this loading scheme first originated in studies using squats and deadlifts.
When we look at the architecture of the hip joint compared to the shoulder, they are very different even though they are both ball and socket joints. The hip is designed for stability. We have a deep acetabulum which covers most of the femoral head and around that is a joint capsule that’s super strong. Then there’s a lot of ligamentous tissue and plenty of musculature to provide further structural support.
The shoulder on the other hand has humeral head which is 3 times bigger than the glenoid fossa, the socket on the scapula with which it articulates. We also have a weak articular capsule designed for mobility, not stability and minimal ligamentous support.
Dynamic Stability is all that we have got.
Let me explain. When we talk about dynamic stability, what we are referring to is the ability to keep the ball on the socket and the socket on the ball. Because we don’t have a lot of static stabilisation structures around the shoulder to help, we’re relying predominantly on muscle forces to position and control the articulation of the glenohumeral joint and scapulothoracic joint.
If we lose dynamic stability of the glenohumeral joint, everything else related to optimising shoulder performance is compromised
So if you want greater levels of endurance, hypertrophy, maximal strength, power or speed, it starts with dynamic stability.
How can you get more dynamic stability?
Research has shown that open kinetic chain and closed kinetic chain movements are both effective at improving glenohumeral proprioception and strength.
So, which is better? Neither is superior as both have excellent and varied benefits so utilise both like a pincer attack to improve shoulder performance.
Think of it like this, in open kinetic chain, the hand moves around the shoulder. In closed kinetic chain, the body moves around the shoulder. If you understand what is required for a high performing shoulder, this will make a lot of sense.
Here are a couple of open and closed kinetic chain exercises for you to try.
The Inverted Kettlebell Shoulder Press
The inverted kettlebell shoulder press is a favourite when it comes to shoulder stability. Really simple, by taking the kettlebell upside down the shoulder has to think about delivering the hand and the elbow through a good movement pattern to maintain stability. Grip the handle hard to increase rotator cuff involvement.
The High Hip Bear Crawl
Ground-based movements like the bear crawl are brilliant additions to your training repertoire for many reasons, one of which is that they connect the shoulder and the pelvis together, creating that stability and kinetic chain integration. Give this one a go. The high hip position is a great way to get more serratus anterior activation.
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