A strong and lean body looks great, but a rock-solid midsection, or pillar, including your hips, core, and shoulders, will boost your performance and significantly reduce your risk for injury. Here’s how to get stable.
Anyone who participates in a sport involving hitting or throwing understands the importance of the rotator cuff muscles, but they’re even more important in everyday life. You can think of your hands and arms as carrying the workload for your upper body, but it’s really your shoulders, or at least it should be that “shoulder” the load.
The Anatomy of Stable Shoulders
The shoulder “girdle” consists of the humerus (a long bone in your upper arm), scapula (your shoulder blades), and clavicle. It’s engineered for a remarkable range of three-dimensional movement. From the shoulder, you can rotate, press, and pull with your arms. You can raise them out to the side or across the body. And you can rotate your shoulders by holding the elbows in and by moving up and in—or in a 90-degree angle to the torso. Why should you care about all of this? Because it matters a great deal to maintaining perfect posture and staying injury-free.
What is Poor Posture?
It’s our natural instinct is to drop the shoulders forward, especially after long periods of sitting. But if you were to look at a skeleton, you’d notice just the opposite—that the shoulder blades stay back and down.
Most of us don’t realize how hunched over we are from sitting at computers and traveling in cars most days. People tend to think that this affects only the elderly, but that’s not the case. Next time you’re people-watching at a mall or airport, pay attention to the position of their thumbs. If your thumbs rotate inward (and your palms face back behind you), that means your head and shoulders have moved forward.
Why is this a problem? Aside from Neanderthal-like appearances, the hunched over look makes you significantly more likely to encounter rotator cuff and back problems, which can limit your ability to participate not only in sports, but also the daily activities of life.
How to Fix Your Shoulders
As people age, they tend to flex forward, as if the chest is caving in. We want to do the opposite, almost as if there’s a fish hook inserted under the sternum, pulling us up. This will allow your shoulders to fall into place and help you stand taller—and look leaner, as a result.
If you create a habit of bringing your shoulders down (think toward your back pockets), you’ll be amazed at the results. People will find you more confident and think you’ve lost weight and grown taller because you are no longer slouched over.