The shoulder is a very dynamic region. To put it to the test on the daily, either through sports, such as swimming and tennis, or through workouts, means that you have an awareness of how dynamic it really can be. In this complex, there's a lot of range of motion and even more potential for strength/power output so there’s plenty that can go wrong!
This short write-up is a summary of a concept that you can start learning today to help your shoulder complex function more efficiently and effectively. Learn these coordination cues and then start to look out for other opportunities where you can connect your core to your fingertips!
Every shoulder action is anchored to the core. From the fingertips all the way through to the lumbar spine, every push and pull, throw and press… ALL involve the core. The more aware and coordinated you are with this, the more efficient your shoulder motions can be. This heightened coordination also improves force distribution throughout the entire chain of movement, therefore decreasing chances of wear-and-tear on a specific tissue such as the rotator cuff.
Two simple drills I like to do to help identify how much the core can affect the shoulder complex is the plank in both passive and active positions and then compare those positions to a functional test, such as pushing a car.
The plank with passive shoulders and relaxed core is disconnected from the lumbar spine and your power output will suffer. Using this coordination pattern while pushing a heavy object, such as a car that has run out of gas, would surely be weak as it does not fully take advantage of your core strength during the push! Let's compare that to an effective plank with an active core.
The power output of this position is clearly higher! By using the musculature from the core initially to stabilize my center of mass, my shoulder complex can successfully attach to this foundation and press much more effectively.
Next time you’re in the gym or you are playing your sport, try to see if you can find other actions that you can connect from your core to your fingertips. You’ll be surprised at how much more effective your swimming stroke, tennis serve, or pullups can be with an active core.
Give these approaches a try and let us know what you think!
Thanks for reading,
Marcus Rein, PT, DPT, CF-L1
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention, and sometimes other random thoughts.