What is shoulder packing? Part 3

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By Boris Bojanovic

In part 1 of this article series we introduced the concept of shoulder packing & talked about what the body needs to do to take a kettlebell overhead safely. In part 2 we delved deeper into what can go wrong with overhead movements because of our modern computer desk posture. These restrictions can cause pain when taking kettlebells overhead by not allowing the scapula & humerus to move naturally. These are:

  1. Excessive thoracic kyphosis, which prevents natural scapular movement
  2. Tight pec minor, which restricts scapular upward rotation
  3. Tight lats, which restrict shoulder flexion
  4. Weak serratus anterior & lower trapezius, which are responsible for scapular upward rotation

In this, final instalment, we give you stretches, drills & activations to overcome the restrictions. These exercises are best preformed as a warm-up routine to your kettlebell overhead training.

1. Issue: Excessive thoracic kyphosis

Solution: Thoracic spine extension on foam roller

Set-up:

  • Sit down on the floor with knees flexed to 90° & your body perpendicular to the foam roller behind you
  • Lie back across the foam roller so that it sits just below your scapulae
  • Interlock your fingers & support your head in your hands with elbows pulled together & chin tucked in

Execution:

  • Extend your upper back over the roller as you breathe 8 deep breaths out
  • Lift your hips & roll the foam roller up to the middle of the scapulae & take 8 more deep breaths, extending over the roller
  • Lift your hips again & roll the foam roller up to the top of the scapulae & take a final 8 breaths, extending over the roller
  • Make sure you keep your abdominals lightly braced to prevent extending with the lower back

2. Issue: Tight pec minor

Solution: Pec minor stretch

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTUAqv3YopA

Set-up:

  • Kneel on the floor with the foam roller in line with your body
  • Place one shoulder on the end of the roller, keep the arm close to the body
  • Support the other side of the body off the floor with your hand & knee

Execution:

  • Retract your scapula & turn your body away from the foam roller to feel a stretch deep in the chest
  • Breathe 8 deep breaths to facilitate relaxation of the pec minor

3. Issue: Tight lats

Solution: Lat stretch

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ko9CwDONYmg

Set-up:

  • Kneel on the floor with one arm straight out in front of you, palm facing up
  • Press down on the palm with the other hand to anchor it to the ground

Execution:

  • Sit back towards your heels & into the side of the “down” hand to feel a stretch
  • Breathe 8 deep breaths to facilitate rib cage expansion & increase tension on the lat

4. Issue: Weak serratus anterior

Solution: Forearm wall slide

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2JNfCrJatA

Set-up:

  • Stand facing a wall with arms in front with elbows bent
  • Forearms should be parallel & pushed into the wall by protracting the scapulae (which activates serratus anterior)

Execution:

  • Continue pushing the elbows into the wall as you slide your forearms up the wall
  • After reaching end-range slide the arms down slowly & repeat to 8 reps

5. Issue: Weak lower traps

Solution: Wall Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpleaPYCRyw

Set-up:

  • Stand facing a wall with chest & forehead in contact with the wall
  • Make a “Y” with your arms up at 45° from vertical, with thumbs pointing behind you

Execution:

  • Lift the arms slightly off the wall by driving from the scapulae
  • Hold for one-one-thousand before returning arms to the wall, repeat to 8 reps
  • Make sure you aren’t shrugging up, moving the head or extending from the lower back

There you have it, safe & effective overhead kettlebell lifting requires shoulder packing – upwardly rotating the scapula to make a firm platform for the arm to go overhead. Modern computer desk posture restricts upward rotation with a stiff flexed thoracic spine, tight pec minor & lats, and weak serratus anterior & lower traps. The above 5 drills can be used as a warm-up for your kettlebell sessions to facilitate safe kettlebell training for you & your clients.

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