The inability of people to bring there arm up over head in a good movement pattern and have the shoulder externally rotated when it is there is one of big culprits of why I see folks with shoulder pain. These coupled movements of shoulder flexion with external rotation are essential to a healthy, fully functioning shoulder and most folks can’t do it!
Let’s break these two movements down to better explain them, and then discuss some ways of addressing a few issues that might be limiting them.
Shoulder Flexion is when you take the arm above your head, pure flexion would be bringing it straight up in the sagittal plane, next to the body, starting with the elbow straight, arm hanging by the side the arm comes straight forward and up, elbow staying straight/extended and finishing with the arm above the head, upper arm next to the ear.
As we do these shoulder flexion movement there are two possible rotations that the shoulder (gleno-humeral joint) can do, based upon our flexibility and habitual movement patterns. The better of the two options is external rotation, the more common in adults (especially those staring at monitors and those with shoulder ‘issues’), more limiting and problematic is internal rotation.
External rotation of the shoulder when the arm is up in flexion brings the armpit more foreword into a more stacked/stable and stronger position. As Coach Brugener would say ,”Show me you armpits!”. If I want to hold or push any significant weight above my head that is the position I want to attain. If I want to be able to hold a handstand, do a cartwheel or hand spring I need that tight/strong shoulder position. If I want to avoid shoulder pain with strength training, swimming or active lifestyle I want that position.
Arms up! Stay fit and healthy. Dr. Whitty