Katy Bowman declared this year to be the year of the upper body, so it got me thinking about my upper body strength (or lack of it). I have super strong hands from doing massage for 15 years (I challenge any of you on the monkey bars or thumb wrestling), but there is no way I could pull myself over a fence (like if I were running from the cops), or pull myself up from deaths door after grabbing a branch while falling off a cliff. Upper body strength is important not only for survival, but also for pain-free baby holding, keeping those shoulders down away from the ears, reducing neck strain and improving blood flow to the head. Also, strong latissimus dorsi muscles contribute to a strong core. The lats help anchor the ribcage down which helps with breathing mechanics. Muscle needs to be at the correct length for optimal force generation and ideally we should be able to lift our own body weight. Alignment matters: our lats can’t fire correctly if our humeri (upper arm bones) are in internal rotation.
Rest your arms at your side, now look down. Are your elbow pits facing forward, or are they pointing inward with the knuckles forward? If the elbow pits are pointing inward, they are internally rotated. Unfortunately, this is the position most of us are used to being in because we spend so much time in internal rotation while driving and on the computer. Our arms end up staying in that position all the time because the muscles holding us in that position shorten. Go out for a walk and watch how people swing their arms. Some people’s arms look like windshield wipers swinging in front of their body. Sometimes you will see someone swinging one arm behind them like they are fanning away a fart. …maybe they are, I keep my distance just in case.
So below you will find two people demonstrating arm positions (the first one didn’t want to be identified) . That’s me in the second photo, notice that my clavicles are not in the ideal neutral (horizontal) position- this is from a lifetime of elevating my shoulders and my weak latissimus dorsi. I’m working on it, so cut me a break here. Horizontal clavicles are important because if they are in the V formation, the muscles around them are not in the correct plane making it difficult to do what they are supposed to do, like keeping the head in the correct position (ears over shoulders). You also run the risk of cervical disk problems, upper back strain, thyroid issues and blood flow to the head.
As I learned in the Restorative Exercise™ training “The shoulder girdle maintains the environment and geometry for activities in the thoracic cavity (those of the heart and lungs) and the health of the cervical and thoracic nervous system,” Katy Bowman biomechanical scientist. Pretty important stuff aye?
Well if breathing, brain function and circulation isn’t enough to convince you to bring your body into alignment and build upper body strength, maybe this will (although I wouldn’t want her psoas). Hang in there past the first minute of the video to see her amazing strength to weight ratio.
I feel self-conscious about putting up a video of me after Miss Butterfly’s amazing performance. Mine isn’t nearly as sexy as hers, but it is a start. Okay, Okay I know I didn’t use the best form in these videos, but I’m working on it. It’s a journey. I swear, I can do it without kicking when I’m not being filmed!
By the way, Katy Bowman has an online class called Super Supple Shoulders, you should check it out, it’s well worth the $15.
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