Motivation: Keeping Your Shoulders Loose

Hi folks,

I have many reasons to work on relaxing my shoulders, so I’m motivated to explore the issue. I received enthusiastic input on approaches to shoulder relaxation from several sources quite recently. Enthusiastic input certainly helps one’s motivation. The reason I would like to loosen my shoulder blades is in order to (a) stay higher in the water when I swim, through the application of Archimedes Principle (go figure that one out, it is interesting), (b) bring my elbows in when I run and promote a relaxed running style, and (c) permit a relaxed position on the bike, which will allow me to loosen those pectoral muscles (pecs) that tend to tighten if you round your shoulders whilst cycling. All good reasons to work on this, and I now have three new approaches to explore, thanks to three kind people.

(1) Tara (Friend and Pilates/Gyrotonic Instructor):

I started working on my shoulders with a simple exercise in my Pilates class. Tara, my Pilates instructor has been telling me for several years that my shoulders are tight.

Pilates exercise for shoulder loosening. Notice that my back is not straight, arched, but I had to set up the picture in a hurry (No excuse!). Photo by David Doss.

An exercise was prescribed in which I take up the position shown in the picture to the right, using a stick or roller to make sure my back is straight (here a mirror would help). Then I have to move my chest vertically up and down to loosen or ease my shoulder blades away from my thorax, where they seem to be glued, permanently. This maneuver certainly accesses those tight muscles holding my shoulder blades to my back, in addition to encouraging my pecs to let go. Tight pecs also contribute to the forward rounding of my shoulders, which again pulls my shoulder blades tightly against my back.

He actually worked out with Bruce Lee, competing at the same time as Chuck Norris. Glad I got to know him. That's Twitter for you.

(2) Bill (@BillVick – enthusiastic athlete and much more): I had a very interesting conversation with a fellow athlete this morning, Bill Vick. We first met through Twitter, having common interests in triathlons (and martial arts, it turned out) and the training of older (50+) people. In addition to encouraging my endeavors, Bill told me about ‘Mr. Smooth.’ This was new to me, but it is probably the best swimming education site I have yet to see. Take a look, the animations and explanations are remarkable. If you go to the link you will get to watch this educational animation, which demonstrates high relaxed shoulder blades, that in turn encourages a high position for the swimmer in the water. Ideally you should swim right on the surface of the water, with a good body roll, to minimize drag that slows you down and tires you out.

It is quite a job to get your stroke right, and relaxed shoulders are critical for a smooth, effective swim. I recommend that you go to see Mr. Smooth do it right. Focusing on keeping those shoulders high, and loosening my shoulders during the recovery stroke, will again encourage shoulder relaxation.

Mister Smooth is just great. From:

(3) Nick (My eldest son, athlete and owner of Shirts That Go):

Over lunch, in addition to discussing Network Marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), Nick provided me with a great training lead. As he is now getting back into running, he asked me what I thought of the three running tips on Dave Scott’s video. I was unaware of this particular video, and fortunately it provided me with yet another means of working on shoulder relaxation (‘Run Like A Waiter‘).

If you explore the relationship between hand rotation and your shoulder blade position when your elbows are bent, as if holding a plate, you will sense a dramatic relationship between them. Opening your palms towards the sky brings your shoulder blades together and down into a more relaxed position. You will also sense that your chest is more open (ribs expanded), which necessitates relaxation of the pectoral muscle mass. When I run my elbows stick out to my sides. I thought this was due to my lats being large from swimming, but now I am beginning to realize that the culprit is more likely to be the fact that my tight and high shoulder blades are pushing my elbows laterally (hunch your shoulders with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and you’ll see what I mean). There are always new tricks for old dogs to learn. I really like that!

The lesson from all of this, for me at least, is that networking with friends, teachers, and fellow Twitterers can help to guide you along the road to being the best athlete you can be.

-k Your Medical Mind


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.