Workout of the Day:
30 Handstand Push-Ups
50 KB Swings
Why Active Shoulders?
Written by Mark Riebel
Anytime you lift or hold something overhead in a workout, from an OHS to a thruster or yourself in a handstand push-up, your coaches always stress shrugging your shoulders up into your ears—‘active shoulders.’ But what is it about active shoulders that is so advantageous?
To answer this, we have to explain some of the anatomy of the shoulder. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, similar to the hip, but in this case the head of your humerus is the ball and a depression on your scapula called the glenoid fossa is the socket. In the case of the hip, this is a very stable arrangement since the ball extends well into the socket. Not so with the shoulder. The glenoid is very shallow even with a small extension from the fibrous tissue surrounding it, the labrum. This means that for optimal stability and safety of the shoulder joint, we can’t rely on our body’s “hardware” to support the joint and must therefore use the muscles surrounding it.
The simple act of lifting or holding a weight overhead will sufficiently activate the muscles of your arms such as the deltoids and triceps, but to get to the base of the shoulder and where the force for that weight will meet up with your body, it’s necessary to further stabilize the scapula. And that’s where shrugging comes into play. Shrugging your shoulders gives tension primarily in your trapezius, the major anchoring point for the scapula, but also in several other stabilizing muscles of your upper back such as the levator scapulae.
Having active shoulders is the surest method to lift overhead safely, and should be employed by anyone who wishes to do so. I’ve heard we do a little of this at CrossFit Invictus, so take heed.