Sunday, July 28, 2013


You Were Born to Be a Swinger. Seriously, You Were!

No, no, no! I am not suggesting that you should be spending time in naughty nightclubs. I am referring to the health and mobility of your shoulders. Think about it for a moment. You can swing your arms in small, tight circles, medium circles, and big looping circles.  You can swing them out to the side or over your head, or down by your legs, or even behind your back – all because of that nifty ball and socket joint called the shoulder.

Is Your Fast Ball Turning Into More of a Sinker?

There are a lot of muscles that contribute to making the shoulder joint work like a well oiled machine, and chances are you are using those muscles way too selectively. You are doing lots of lifting, pushing (pressing) and pulling or you play your favorite sports and do a lot of throwing, passing, shooting (balls, not guns), punching, or swinging a racquet or a golf club – until your shoulder starts to hurt. Then you rest it, ice it, heat it, medicate it, and eventually COMPENSATE!

You consciously or unconsciously adjust your movements by easing off the sore or stiff muscles and relying on some fresh ones to lift, push, pull, throw, pass, punch, shoot, or swing a racquet or a golf club.  And that compensation gets the job done, up until something else hurts – like your neck, or your elbow, or your back.

Just for a Minute, Pretend You Are Clock?

Please stand-up and raise your right hand – as high as you can - like you are back in a classroom and you want the teacher to call on you. Your elbow is locked-out (not bent) and your fingers are pointing toward the ceiling.  If your hand were the hand of a clock, it should be squarely on the twelve.
But, if your hand can only make it as far as the eleven, so that your bicep is closer to your cheek than your ear, you do not have full range of motion. Now you might decide to really push that arm and shoulder back, so that you can hit twelve o’clock, but are you unintentionally arching your lower back to get that extra couple of inches? Once again compensation gets the job done – at the expense of other muscles.

This Might a Good Time to Do the Backstroke!

Starting with your arms at your side, bring your right arm up and in a backward circle, like you are lying in pool and doing the backstroke. Then, do the same with your left arm.  Continue alternating arm strokes, keeping the strokes smooth and gentle, and as close to your body as you can.  IF YOU FEEL PAIN OR DISCOMFORT, BACK OFF! Do not work through the pain. Adjust your arm stroke (taking it a little away from your body) so that you can complete the backward circle without feeling pain. That adjusted movement is your current (limited!) range of motion.

If you use the backstroke exercise either by itself or as a warm-up before your regular workout or sports activity, (unless your shoulder problem is more serious than you think), you will slowly increase that range of motion, and when your raise-the-hand-like-a-clock test starts getting closer to the twelve, you will know that you are making solid progress. Of course, if you experience consistent shoulder pain, you will immediately consult your physician or physical therapist. But I really did not need to tell you that. Or did I?

Now wouldn’t it be really cool if there were a way to build both shoulder strength and shoulder mobility simultaneously? Come to think of it there is. Have you heard of Indian Clubs?

But that, as they say, is another story. Coming soon!

In the meantime, please repeat after me: I was born to be a swinger.