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Shoulders For Boulders

Shoulder Health for the Outdoor Athlete

By: John Parker Rock climbing and bouldering pictures and news ActionAdventure-16

Photo By: Sean Naugle

Exploring movement and sport in the great outdoors in nothing short of awe inspiring. Nature has a way of making us feel small – enhancing the connection we feel with the environment and our movement practice. The outdoor athlete develops a high level of ability in their pursuits due to constant changes in surroundings and the rigors of unpredictable terrain. Although this training creates a robustness of mindset, strength, and endurance, the outdoor athlete must also be cognizant of physical stressors that could harm the body.

Unlike training in a gym setting, natural surroundings like the ocean, rivers, forest, and mountains contain dangerous and constantly changing surfaces and features. Over time, interaction with these elements can produce micro trauma to joints, ligaments, and muscles, leaving our bodies susceptible to injuries.
Over the past 10 years as an exercise coach, the majority off my clients’ pervasive injuries have surrounded the most mobile joint in the body: the shoulder.
The shoulder is not only responsible for helping the arm reach to rocks, branches, and gear, but also helps us to push and pull ourselves off the ground. The shoulder’s capacity for strength, mobility, and function is unmatched compared to our other joints. Its musculature is capable of great sturdiness in almost every plane; sagittal (forward and back), frontal (side to side), and transverse (twisting motions).
Having so much load and action to bear, it’s easy to see that the shoulder joint and surrounding musculature can accumulate stress over time from repetitive use or trauma. But, with proper maintenance we can improve our shoulder mechanics to prolong and enhance our outdoor pursuits.
First, an introduction to shoulder mechanics is necessary: Rock climbing and bouldering pictures and news Shoulders For Boulders
Shoulder Joint
When we think of the shoulder, we typically think about the upper arm bone (humerus) attaching to the shoulder blade (scapula) in a shallow ball and socket joint (glenoid fossa).
The ball and socket anatomy allows the shoulder to have the greatest range of motion of any joint in our bodies.
We must also examine the joint connecting the collarbone (clavicle) and scapula (acromion process). This so called the “AC” joint is the injured joint referred to when someone has separated their shoulder.
The scapula also connects to the ribcage, known as the scapulothoracic joint. Uniquely this joint is controlled by muscular attachments.
With these three connections of the shoulder, we can see that muscles, ligaments, and tendon integrity must be maintained to ensure healthy outdoor activities. Any disruption caused by a muscle knot (trigger point), tendon inflammation (tendonitis), or trauma can lead to acute or chronic injury.
Rotator Cuff Rock climbing and bouldering pictures and news Shoulders For Boulders

(photo cred:

You’ve probably heard of the “rotator cuff” before when someone has endured a shoulder injury.
The rotator cuff is actually made up of four muscles that originate and attach along the scapula and humerus. These muscles are necessary to stabilize the head of the humerus while the surround musculature help raise the arm in flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction.

The subscapularis is the biggest and strongest rotator cuff muscle that allows internal rotation of the humorous – imagine the arm’s entry position

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