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3 Coaching Cues for Strength and Conditioning Programs – Shoulder Edition

Written on December 26, 2012 at 9:46 am, by Eric Cressey

Since this series was so popular this year, I figured I’d try to squeeze in just one more collection of suggestions before the 2012 wraps up. Here are three more coaching cues for your strength and conditioning programs:

“1. Pull the elbows to your hips.”

As I discussed a while back in my Cleaning Up Your Chin-up Technique post, you want to be careful about extending the humerus past neutral at the top position of a chin-up. If the elbow moves behind the body In this position, the humeral head can glide forward, irritating the biceps tendon and anterior capsule. Additionally, the thoracic spine becomes excessively kyphotic, and the scapula may anteriorly tilt, closing down the subacromial space and exacerbating impingement on the rotator cuff tendons. Here’s what the bad looks like:

I’ve found that encouraging athlete to pull the elbows to the hips prevents this excessive humeral extension, and it also makes athletes stricter with their technique; they have to get the chest to the bar instead of just reaching with the chin and creating a forward head posture.

Conversely, if you encourage many young athletes to “just get your chin to the bar,” you get some garbage kipping concoction that looks like Quasimodo on the monkey bars with his pants on fire.

“2. Keep the biceps quiet.”

Piggybacking on our previous point, just like excessive humeral extension can create anterior (front) shoulder stress, uncontrolled external rotation can be equally problematic, as the humeral head will once again want to glide forward if it isn’t appropriately controlled by a combination of rotator cuff recruitment and scapular stability.

If an athlete feels external rotations in the front of his shoulder even in what appears to be the correct position, he’s performing them without monitoring humeral anterior glide. If this occurs, I’ll have him place his opposite hand on the front of the shoulder to monitor any kind of anterior glide of the humeral head, and encourage him to “keep the biceps quiet.” I’d say that 90% of the time, athletes are good to go once this correction takes place. In the other 10% of cases, we’ll regress the athlete to supine and prone external rotations, as well as manual resistance “holds” at the 90/90 position.

“3. Try to touch your butt to the ceiling.”

The yoga push-up is one of my favorite push-up variations. Just like all other push-up variations, it gives our shoulder blades freedom of movement, which is important when you consider that they’re essentially stuck in place during bench press movements.

I especially like the yoga push-up because it doesn’t just combine protraction/retraction, but also involves near-full humeral flexion. By elevating the humerus further, we force athletes to work on getting more scapular upward rotation.

If you tell an athlete, “Push your butt away from the floor,” you get greater recruitment of serratus anterior and upper trapezius to really get that last bit of scapular upward rotation – and, at the same time, get some good thoracic spine extension.

That wraps up this installment of cues.  If you like what you’re reading, I’d encourage you to check out the Muscle Imbalances Revealed – Upper series, which features a collection of outstanding webinars from some really bright guys in the industry.  Rick Kaselj, who organized the collaborative effort, has the product on sale at a great discount with a 60-day money-back guarantee.  You can check it out here for yourself.


 

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3 Responses to “3 Coaching Cues for Strength and Conditioning Programs – Shoulder Edition”

  1. Shane Says:

    Great cues as always. Like the chin up cue. Eric, mate it is the day after Xmas. Get some rest!

  2. Rob Palombo Says:

    Thanks for your professional weight trianing tips. You are the man, Eric!

  3. Don Peterson Says:

    Dear Eric,
    These cues have been incredibly helpful. As a rock climber, I do all kinds of pull training from climbing to extensive bar, finger board, and systems wall training. I have had all kinds of anterior shoulder impingement issues, biceps tendon issues, and scapular and thoracic mobility issues. My “complications became so severe that I developed severe elbow and even wrist numbness and pain. I have taken 9 months to resolve these issues (90%) and am training hard once again. Your cues are amazingly helpful. I noticed a difference the first time that I did a pull up. Now to develop some new habits! Thanks so much.

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