Sep 24, 2013

Wonder Shoulders, Activate!

...form of Overhead Position!
At today's Coach's Clinic, we had an in-depth discussion on what "active" shoulders are and how to convey it to a new athlete...  Here's an attempt at an explanation compiled from a few reputable sources.  Two main ideas:

1)  "Active Shoulders" -- in the general sense, it is not a specific position but rather a widely applicable concept.  It means that you are placing the shoulder in the most advantageous position for the movement you are about to perform.  You want "active shoulders" when you are going overhead, lifting from the ground, doing pull-ups, pushups, handstands, etc.  And they all look different.  From Roger Harrell, gymnastics guru: 
With active shoulders, you press the whole shoulder carriage up, down, forward or back depending on the exercise. This has several effects. One is it actually gives the muscles in the shoulders a little more leverage. It increases the overall lever arm in some exercises, but the differences in muscle leverage greatly outweigh that. It also puts the shoulder in a better position for the movements. It helps avoid binding and moving tendons and ligaments through unnatural positions and will help reduce injury and stress to the joint.
2)  The Overhead Position -- 95% of the time, when we say "active shoulders" in the Bubble we are referring to a bar overhead.  OHS, the press and jerk movements, and the receiving position of the snatch all require a strong overhead position with active shoulders.  What's that mean?  This is one of the few places where the Level 1 handbook is lacking: "elbows straight, shoulders into the ears" doesn't quite cut it.  What we want is an external rotation of the shoulders.  This puts the bar in the right spot overhead, aligns the load-bearing skeletal components of the shoulder (the scapula, humerus, and ribs), and engages all the supporting musculature, creating a very stable position.
We use a bunch of common cues and phrases to describe it: "Show me your armpits...external rotation of the shoulders...inside of your elbows toward the ceiling...try to bend or/break the bar apart."  Don't just throw this stuff out there.  Make sure you know what you are trying to achieve in your athlete, and find the best way to describe it to them.  Here are three solid vids from K-Starr and Coach B that are very helpful in understanding "what right looks like."  Recommend viewing them in the order listed:
  • "Correcting Active Shoulders" with Coach Burgener.  Quick, to the point (to the point no fakin, cookin' MCs like a pound, never mind).
  • “The Active Shoulder” with Kelly Starrett [wmv] [mov].  A little more technical....
  • "Gripping the Bar" again with Coach B.  A longer, more methodical explanation from the Oly Cert Course. 
Other thoughts or helpful tips?  Contrarian views?  Post to comments.


Ross said...

thanks for sharing

Allan Jackman said...

Good explanations showing the past cue ("shoulders to ears") vs current cue ("show your arm pits").

I hope the upcoming WODs have something overhead.

kate lewis said...

This is really an awesome review and I really appreciate your creative thinking as well.