For years, my shoulders just felt wrong when I would lift. Hell, they felt wrong when I put my coat on, opened a sticky window or lay on my back with hands clasped behind my head.
There was no serious injury but they’d feel sore in spots, achy, unstable and often, just not as strong and confident as they would at other times.
Then one day, my chiropractor did a “pin & stretch” on my pecs and it felt like my shoulders finally felt right. A “pin & stretch” is kind of like taking a bendy straw that is in a shortened position and pulling it into a lengthened position. Except in the case of my pecs, she was taking a shortened, bunched up section of muscle fibers and pulling it long.
This allowed the head of my humerus to move back into the center of the shoulder socket and it immediately felt “right”. Later that day, while warming-up at the gym, without knowing it, I gave myself a posterior glide shoulder mobilization and it felt even better.
What this basically means, is I gently pushed the head of the humerus into the posterior capsule of the shoulder joint and stretched the connective tissues that had been too tight after years of my shoulder sitting in the wrong place. It felt great!
I then reinforced this new posture with a variety of horizontal pulling exercises, so the muscles would help keep everything in it’s place.
Figuring out how to do the “pin & stretch” on myself was pretty easy and I began doing the whole process before every workout. I then proceeded to hit a new PR in the Overhead Press every week, 4 weeks in a row.
Here’s how you can do this whole process for your self:
Step 1: Check Shoulder Posture
Much of this process will be determined successful or not based on how your shoulders feel. So check in with them. Do some light presses and see how they feel.
Then look in the mirror. Does one or both look like they round forward? How do you feel when you stand with your arms hanging at your sides? Are your thumbs pointing forward or are they rotated inward?
Step 2: Self “Pin & Stretch” Pec Release
Find a dip station. Hopefully it has a rubber end on it. If one shoulder is more forward than the other, start with that side.
- Feel around for a trigger point (knot) in your pec.
- Slide your fingers just to the inside (sternum side) of the trigger point.
- Place your other hand up the dip bar and lean into the rubber end, pressing the exact spot where your fingers were.
- Now lift your hand off the dip bar and sweep it back with a straight arm. This won’t feel good.
You’ll want to play with different angles of the arm sweep for different areas of the pec seeing as the fibers are fan-like. Try to move in the same direction as the fibers of the spot you are releasing.
Do this 3-5 times for each trigger point, on each pec.
Now stand up with arms hanging at your sides. Feel any different?
Step 3: Self-Posterior Glide Shoulder Mobilization
This a pretty gentle movement and unlike the “pin & stretch”, it should feel good. You’re trying to gently stretch the connective tissues in the back of your shoulder capsule.
- Place your hand on your opposite shoulder and keep the arm relaxed.
- Hook your opposite wrist and hand just above the elbow, pull into your chest and wiggle the shoulder just a bit.
If your shoulder needed the mobilization, it should have felt really nice. If you felt nothing, well, you probably didn’t need it. Now you know.
How do you feel with your arms hanging at your sides now? Go press something light and see how it feels compared to before.
Step 4: Horizontal Pulling
Now that you’ve created the space for your humeral heads to sit more centered in the socket, you’ll need to strengthen your shoulder girdle to help keep them there.
These are my 3 favorite exercises:
IMPORTANT: Be sure to pinch your shoulder blades together on each rep. This ensures that your humeral head will be pulled back into the socket rather than jamming forward into the tendons. Otherwise, you can make your shoulder worse instead of better.
How much horizontal pulling should you do? A lot. Shoot for at least a 3/2 pulling/pushing ratio. I usually choose a light to moderate weight so I can really focus on squeezing my shoulders back and get 50 – 100 reps, broken up over 4-10 sets.
If you want to experience how I work this into a full training program, check out my 8 week training program, Overhaul Protocol. When I first released it people paid $397 but it’s now free for members at the Overhaul Training membership site.
If these methods seemed to help but you feel like you could use some help going even further, I recommend finding a Structural Therapist in your area.
An A.R.T. therapist is the master of the “pin & stretch” and they’ll be able to get more than just your pecs moving properly. Here’s the place to find one.
A Rolfer frees up and realigns the fascia that covers your whole body. Fascia is the web of slimy connective tissue between your skin and your muscles. If you’ve ever handled raw chicken with the skin still on it, you’ve seen fascia.
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