Bump up your Shoulder Injury Prevention: The Arm Pit Checkup
Ok, you want to know how your shoulders are doing this season. Fair. If you are reading this, it might be likely that you are noticing symptoms (tightness, weakness, sensitivities) These are all warning signs that something could go awry with climbing at your hardest. Check out these few tricks to ensure that your shoulder is functioning correctly, and not setup for disaster. First in a progression of awareness creating articles, the Arm Pit. (Cue background music).
Not very many people know too much about the armpit. It can make really cool noises. It can stink out your friends, but did you know that it should have a certain shape to assist you with your climbing? First, raise your arm while looking in a mirror (You might want to warn someone first if they are standing too close for safety.)
First, as if assessing a climbing hold, what is the shape of your armpit. How does the skin lay over the muscles below? The shape and the angle tell us everything. Today we focus on the shape. Words like concavity, bowl, want to look in your armpit for a concavity, not a bulge. Muscles that support the shoulder blade (scapula) while pulling down become VERY tight as climbers. They can get shortened and contracted until the whole region is locked down tighter than a belay device. The trick is to find it and soften it before it plays havoc through the rest of the shoulder. If left to its tightness, this causes abnormal anterior positioning of the shoulder blade, dumping 15% of your power and setting your shoulder up for rubbing, grinding and injury. Think impingement, labral tears, and tendonosis of the tendons of the rotator cuff.
GOOD: Deep dish where the arm pit resides. The tissue is soft, you can feel the front of your scapula if you push in the right spot.
BAD: Bumpy muscular bulge in the region that the arm pit is supposed to be in. The whole area is so tight that you can’t tell muscle from bone.
Above: Printed with express permission by Elizabeth Jancewicz TheTourTest.com
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Next, what to do about it?! We can dig in with tools, apply vibration, do PNF stretches, modify our cool down....But first we need to have a measurement to see if we are making progress. By comparing your armpit to before your application, you can see if there is progress being made. Don't be shy, take a picture! The WHY far outweighs the HOW at this moment in time... Your homework if you choose to accept it, is to watch your armpit through the week, before hard climbing, after stretching and notice that it does change. Its not a static structure! Held together by moving parts, that need nutrients, hydration and a balanced training load, the region changes with your lifestyle and application of exercise and stretching. Do yoga for a week? Better! Do lat pulldowns for a week? Tighter/less of a dish! Our complex intricate system is just one more cool thing in this world... Who knew? Armpits!
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