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Old 05-30-2007, 05:37 PM   #1
Howard Wilcox
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Hello folks,

I seem to be reading conflicting information on using the shoulder (perhaps due to my limited understanding). Most KB stuff advises to keep the shoulder down (or "packed" as some call it) when pressing and stuff.

Crossfit, in particular, advises the "active shoulder" or "shoulder in ears" when doing overhead squats and probably other shoulder work too (not sure, just a guess).

Can someone tell me why the difference and/or when each is appropriate?



p.s. I posted this on DD also, not spoiling for an argument...but I really want to know the reasons for apparent contradictions.
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Old 05-30-2007, 09:22 PM   #2
Matt DeMinico
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A Physical Therapist I know recommends doing shoulder exercises with the shoulders back as best as you can, and doing only one arm at a time. When you use a barbell, you are severely limiting your shoulder and back's normal range of motion that is used to prevent stress in your shoulder.

Prime example, me... I had ZERO problems in my left shoulder, and then within three weeks of doing Overhead Squats and some other things, I've got issues now. I think I was doing some things slightly wrong, but now even doing OHS the "proper" way kills my shoulder.
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Old 05-31-2007, 04:55 AM   #3
William Hunter
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Howard, search "active shoulder". There have been some very informative threads on the subject. Short answer: CF advocates shoulders in ears with overhead lifting, and shoulders pressed down at the top of dips and MU's.

Matt, shoulders, especially the acromion process, come in different shapes and sizes. To use me as a prime example- strict overhead pressing, WITH A BARBELL, has done more good for my shoulders than anything else I've ever tried. I use DB's on occasion but 80% of my overhead lifting is with a BB, and it feels awesome, very therapeutic.

You've said on a couple of occasions that you have an awesome PT. Does he have access to films of your shoulder to evaluate the acromion process? I have to assume that your RC has been fully evaluated. Primary function of the RC is compression and depression of the humeral head which helps avoid impingement with abduction.
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Old 05-31-2007, 05:32 AM   #4
Keith Wittenstein
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As William says, CF advocates "Active" Shoulders. That means that the shoulders move in the direction of the application of force: shoulders up when pressing up (as in thrusters), shoulders down when pressing down (as in dips), shoulders up when pulling up (as in high pulls), and shoulders down when pulling down (as in pullups).

CF adopts this technique from the gymnastics and olympic lifting communities. Considering that these two sports put the greatest explosive forces on the shoulders it seems safe to say that active shoulders are the safest way to lift heavy and receive heavy loads.

The modern theory of shoulder work advocates a retracted and depressed shoulder blade with the humerus plugged deep into the shoulder socket. I think this is good for low to moderate loads, but I don't know that it has proven effective with explosive forces and loads in excess of bodyweight which is what is de facto in gymnastics and Olympic lifting.

When tumbling, vaulting, snatching, jerking and crossfitting I would advise active shoulders. When doing yoga and kettlebelling I would advise using the packed shoulder. Both can be used to great effect. But it is important to know when you are using them and be conscious of how much load you are putting on the shoulders. As the loads get heavier and more explosive, you should start to activate the shoulders.
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Old 05-31-2007, 08:14 AM   #5
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I spoke to pavel about why he recommends the packed shoulder because it conflicted with what i recommend, which is the active shoulder. he actually said he likes the active shoulder, but advocates the packed because people don't perform active correctly and a packed shoulder is safer than an incorrectly active one. basically the idea was that people don't return the shoulder as they lower the arm--they keep it elevated, and this is the problem. seems to me it makes more sense to teach proper active shoulder than just avoiding it, but that was the explanation he gave me.

PTs by and large are educated about and experienced with working with unhealthy people--that is, they know what to do when you're already broken. The problem is that what to do when you're already broken is not always the same thing to do to prevent getting broken in the first place. With shoulders, they repeatedly see injuries primarily in people with horrible shoulder and back flexibility, so the mechanisms of injury can't be assumed to be the same for someone with proper ROM who is consequently capable of sound biomechanics.

And of course, there are limits to everything--is pressing and jerking healthy? Absolutely. Is jerking double bodyweight all the time healthy? Not really. But the difference between the former and the latter is the difference between health/fitness and specialization/sport.
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