Wearing Shoulders Too Low

Most people “wear their shoulders too low” according to Shirley Sahrmann, author of the book Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. At a seminar delivered way back in August of 2004 for the Ontario Kinesiology Society, Sahrmann noted that more problems occur with the shoulders depressed than elevated. Neck pain is a classic example. If you raise the shoulder girdles up, you’ll get greater cervical rotation and it can relieve neck pain for many people.

Sahrmann emphasizes that the body adapts to the posture it trains in. Exercises are often performed incorrectly, thus accelerating the rate of joint degeneration. For instance, it’s common practice in weight training to set the shoulders by retracting and depressing the scapulae during many upper- and lower-body movements. This act, however, disrupts normal scapulo-humeral rhythm and may lead to an impingement syndrome.

Also, Sahrmann isn’t a fan of the various isolation exercises for the shoulders. We’re told to avoid overhead pressing because of the impingement risk, but this is one of the safest, most effective exercises you can do for the shoulder joint. The key, according to Sahrmann, is to perform overhead presses in the saggital plane with the elbows forward, not out to the side. The anterior and posterior heads of the deltoid neutralize each other in this position while the rotator cuff muscles work very hard to stabilize the joint. I call it the Sahrmann Press.

Using a neutral grip with the palms facing each other and the elbows forward, press the weight upwards just shy of locking out. Make sure to keep your forearms perpendicular (vertical) to the ground at all times.

It’s not uncommon for the elbows to flare outward near the top of the movement as evident in the photo above. Use dynamic AIS and PNF stretching methods as demonstrated in my Warm-Up to Strength Training DVD. Also, consider getting some soft-tissue work done for your shoulder internal rotators, particularly the lats, subscapularis, and teres major. Active release technique (ART) is quite effective for this.

Try the Sahrmann Press in your next routine. It’s a challenging overhead press variation so start light, go slow, and really concentrate on your form.

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