Keeping it simple is the name of the game when learning how to juggle (or I think it is since I cannot juggle yet ?). I believe practice and consistency will help anyone develop a skill. Juggling is no different. In juggling there are multiple things to think about and execute so things don’t fall flat to the ground. Coordination is the key. Every movement needs to be in a specific sequence.
In “Juggling The Juggler,” I used this analogy to demonstrate the complexity of how the shoulder unit works. Having a shoulder “tear” sounds devastating and hard to recover from. A shoulder can function at a high level with a tear and not get worse if you are able to “juggle the juggler” really well. For more information on the first installment of this series where I describe how the shoulder complex functions, read “Juggling the Juggler (Part 1)”.
Our society makes it hard for the shoulder to age gracefully. In Part 1, I wrote about how our shoulder is designed to do amazing feats to “hunt and gather,” but flawed when put into a modern day environment of sitting from a young age. It is a joint that is made to be unstable and by design, places it at a certain disadvantage nowadays.
The first step in learning how to juggle is to start on level stable ground. Sounds silly or “no brainer” but remember it’s a “keep it simple model.” In regards to shoulder care, the foundational components are the shoulder blade (scapular) muscles and our trunk “core” muscles. Our core includes our diaphragm, pelvic floor, obliques, gluteals, back and inner abdominals. This concept can be difficult to grasp if you are in lots of pain from a tear and/or need to recover fast to return back to work or sport. Step back and look at this journey from a bigger picture and ask yourself when in life is skipping the basics an advantage.
The rotator cuff muscles is the next step in this juggling act. The rotator cuff is a group of four small muscles. The collective unit helps you to be dynamic with your ability to reach via a suction effect. This suction effect helps minimize our risk of dislocating our arm. This phenomenon is important in controlling the impingement that can begin a shoulder tear. I prefer starting with a challenging weight with your load because it will challenge your arm from “coming out” of the socket. This “heavy” feeling will trigger the brain to say “(Jane/John) means business, let me help him/her out and turn on as many upper body muscles as I can to help him/her succeed.” The upper body mass activation will boost your rotator cuff to succeed during this training.
If you have any history of visceral conditions or surgery, this can add extra tension when you raise your arm up, side, or backwards. If you are plateauing in your shoulder care, this is one common and overlooked reason that can help your shoulder tremendously. This requires specific hands on work to release this tension.
Lastly, I hinted at the importance of our spine integrating with our shoulder joint to provide FULL range of motion. Recent studies have shed light on this concept. The thoracic (middle back) spine’s role is to help your torso to twist and be dynamic for all activities. The evidence is still in the early phase in trying to quantify which shoulder pain cohort needs more spinal mobility work. This is an important concept to address if you do any athletic activities, from running to pitching.
Steps to ReVITALize your shoulder
Step 1) Scapular (shoulder blade) Prone T’s , Y’s, W’s
Lay on your stomach with forehead supported by a rolled up towel (chin should be relaxed near your neck). Reach both arms out sideways to make a letter T. Studies show more isolation of the muscle if your thumbs are pointed up towards the ceiling, but if that is difficult or painful, palm facing down is okay.
Reach sideways and hold for 30 seconds. Follow by 10 repetition of a 5 second hold. End with another prolong hold for 30 seconds.
Next, perform the same movement pattern but in a letter Y pattern. Arms reaching over your head. Cycle between the prolonged 60 seconds hold, 10 repetitions, then 30 seconds hold.
Lastly, stay on your stomach and position your arm like you are showing off your biceps. Lift your thumbs up towards the ceiling. Cycle between the prolonged 60 seconds hold, 10 repetitions, then 30 seconds hold.
Step 2) Wall Push (scapular) and Hold (Isometrics)
Place both hands against the wall, ear level. Pretend that the wall is falling down towards you. Push an hold that stance with all your effort. Elbows must be straight. Hold for 60 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times. This exercise is great for shoulder tears.
Step 3) Suitcase and Loaded Carries (Rotator Cuff)
Grab two dumbells (ten pounds is a good weight to start out with) and hold it for 30-60 seconds. Grip as tight with emphasis on your ring and pinky fingers. Suitcase carry is with one arm and will add a “core” effect.
Step 4) Subscapularis Hugs
Make a fist with both arms and do an “air” hugging-a-big barrel/bear motion. Repeat 15-30 times.
Step 5) Rotator Cuff Hold (Isometrics)
Grab a long rope or belt. Tighten and fit it so it wraps around your wrist when your elbow is bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly push your wrist into the belt/rope and hold for 60 seconds. Repeat throughout the day.
There are tons of techniques and these are just a few to get you started on ReVITALizing your shoulder. If you are interested in more techniques, contact me via email to get TEN shoulder mobilization, shoulder soft tissue work, and movement based exercises. I will send a BONUS top five most effective rotator cuff exercises based on the most recent research.
Please share my blog and post if you know anyone with shoulder pain. ☝❤️
Photo credit: http://juggling-for-beginners.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/juggling-tricks.gif