When it comes to building overhead shoulder strength and stability, traditional understanding tends to steer individuals looking to gain an edge towards higher-level functional exercises too soon before mastering the basics. We’re not talking basic shoulder exercises like the Thrower’s Ten or A’s T’s and Y’s, and we are not discrediting their use.
We are going even deeper into the foundation of shoulder stability. In this blog, we will discuss why the position of your ribcage is the most critical factor to becoming a master of your overhead movement.
What Does the Position of The Ribcage Have to Do with The Shoulder?
Before delving into the importance of ribcage positioning, let’s first understand the significance of the ribcage in the movement of the scapula (aka the shoulder blade).
Stability: Your ribcage serves as the surface for which the scapula moves on. If the rib cage is tilted back too far, the scapular will have a hard time moving around the ribs, which is crucial for an activity like a push-up or when throwing a ball.
Muscle Activation: Proper ribcage positioning ensures the optimal engagement of key muscles, especially the serratus anterior and lower trapezius muscles, which plays a pivotal role in the stabilization and movement of the shoulder blade.
Injury Prevention: Incorrect ribcage positioning can lead to poor postural patterns, unaddressed muscle imbalances, and over the course of time, overuse injuries or worse.
The Link Between Ribcage Positioning and Overhead Shoulder Strength
Now, we are ready to explore the critical connection between ribcage positioning and overhead shoulder strength. When we are cognizant of and can control our ribcage positioning during overhead lifting, several benefits will follow.
Enhanced Muscle Recruitment: Correct ribcage positioning allows for optimal and effective muscle recruitment at the scapula, and when your scapula is stable, the shoulder muscles can work harmoniously, distributing the forces generated by the lower legs sequentially, ensuring maximal power and control during overhead movements.
Improved Shoulder Joint Mobility: Mastering ribcage positioning is the only way to ensure that we are utilizing a safe and optimal range of motion during overhead activities. Failure to know where your safe range lies, may lead to poor mechanics, undue stress on the shoulder joint itself, and to tissue breakdown like rotator cuff tears, labral tears, biceps tears and even cervical disc herniations.
Overall Increase in Function: When first considering the importance of proper ribcage positioning, it can seem like you are moving backwards. Maybe the dumbbell feels a bit heavier? Maybe you won’t be able to lift as much, at first? But overtime, and with the help of a skilled physical therapist, you can break free of old movement patterns and start creating better habits for the long journey ahead.
How To Start Mastering Your Ribcage Positioning?
Reimagine posture as a journey and not a destination. Good posture is not the same for everyone. Start with a simple breathing exercise. Lie on your back with your knees up. Take a deep inhale through your nose, and then an even deeper exhale through pursed lips. Try to exhale fully, and feel the ribs sink downward, while letting your low back fall to the floor. Can you feel your core muscles activate? Can you maintain that activation during the next inhale?
Can you maintain it sitting? How about standing? Ultimately the position of your ribcage is linked directly to your breath, more specifically your ability to maximize the use of the diaphragm during movement. Of course you can leave it up to the pros, call ProMet Physical Therapy now, and learn how we can help you become the master your overhead strength!