Functional Training Institute

What is shoulder packing? Part 2

by Boris Bojanovic

In the first part of this article series on shoulder packing in kettlebell overhead movements we talked about shoulder upward rotation being necessary to make space for the humerus to move without risking impingement. Correct overhead kettlebell posture, as viewed from the side, is a near vertical arm. This requires enough scapular upward rotation & shoulder flexion. The problem is that most of our computer-bound clients can’t get to this position safely, they look more like the poor guy in the last picture down the page.

Now bare with me, this is about to get geeky. But it will be well worth it as it will set you up to know what to do when these things go wrong. You will learn what to do about it in the third & final, practical, part of the series. There will be much less long words & much more videos, I promise!

The scapular upward rotators (lower trapezius, serratus anterior & upper trapezius) can only do their job if unobstructed by their antagonists. Scapular downward rotators are the rhomboids, levator scapulae & pec minor. These muscles tend to be tightened by the common rounded shoulder posture, also known as upper crossed syndrome.

Another factor which will affect good scapular upward rotation is upper back (thoracic spine) posture. Part of upper crossed syndrome is excessive thoracic spine rounding (kyphosis). The thoracic spine has to have the right amount (neutral) curvature for the scapula to slide into the right position when upwardly rotating.

The other component of overhead position is shoulder flexion to a near vertical arm. Tight or short shoulder extensors will restrict this movement. Muscles which extend the shoulder are the latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid & teres major. No points for guessing that these are commonly overactive & short.

There you have it, a quick review of shoulder functional anatomy as it relates to holding a kettlebell overhead. In the final part of the series I will show you, in videos, all the practical stuff related to fixing shoulder packing in your clients. I will show you how to reduce excessive thoracic kyphosis, loosen the commonly tight scapular downward rotators & shoulder extensors & activate the underactive scapular upward rotators.

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