The shoulder joint is notorious for being one of the most complex in the body. Basic study/knowledge of anatomy will tell you just how much movement is available at the shoulder – we have flexion, extension, adduction, abduction, internal and external rotation along with circumduction. The argument could be made that to have truly “healthy” shoulders, you one must be able to execute all these planes of movement without excessive restriction and/or pain.
Recently, I wrote about injury management with most of what I’d written stemming from personal experience – as is always the case. My issue was right shoulder pain that prevented me from going in to any rteal degree of external or internal rotation without sharp pain. The implications this had strength-wise were glaring; basic push ups caused pain. I couldn’t hold dumbbells at the bottom position of an overhead dumbbell press, and sometimes I had pain radiating throughout day to day activities with the shoulder in a relaxed position! Shit was serious.
You’re probably expecting a fully detailed rehabilitation program with dialogue scripts between me and a physio………..don’t worry, I’m not going to waste that much of your life. Basically, I attribute my issue to a lack of shoulder mobility to begin with. Even though I’ve written fairly extensively about posture and movement dysfunction, it doesn’t exemplify me from being vulnerable to these issues also.
Most opinions (myself included) were that I may have a tight pec minor and lats, causing too much internal rotation of the shoulders and humerus (upper arm). The result of this is me having sub par thoracic extension ability.
(fixtheneck.com) – The pec minor and its effect on the shoulder
Anyhow, getting back on track, it was my interest in calisthenics that led me to fixing my problem. Anyone that’s ever done yoga or gymnastics will be familiar with bridge posture or “wheel pose” as it’s otherwise known. To some, this movement is easy and a breeze. To others, it’s an impossibility.
(corewalking.com) – The FULL bridge
Up until very recently, this pose was a pipedream for me. The most I could manage was a neck bridge as you see below……..
(breaking muscle.com) – Neck bridge. Note: the head stays on the floor
It should go without saying: This pose is a humbling one for anyone never previously exposed to it. Odds are you won’t be able to get it with straight arms without much pre-preparation. That was the case for me, you may be different though. I hope you are.
Being the competitive perfectionist I am, my inability to execute this move frustrated me. Rather than deem myself “not born to do this”, I took it upon myself to work towards it and incorporated it into my stretching schedule. Each time I’d use modifications to get my arms straighter and straighter. Sometimes that meant placing my hands a little further back (away from the feet), other times it meant lifting up onto my toes.
And wouldn’t you know………the more I did it, the better it got.
Now I’m by no means an expert in this and probably never will be, but it seems to have improved my shoulder issue(s). I am now back doing handstand pushups, can do weighted dips – and straight bar dips – without pain. I’ve supplemented my bridging with weighted shoulder dislocates (more on those here: 1 exercise for healthier shoulders), doing so has improved my active range of motion through the shoulders ten fold.
Cool! But will bridging give me muscle gains? I just want to lift heavy shit!
If you lift heavy shit long enough, there’ll come a time where you’ll start looking twice at remedial exercises like the bridge and the dislocate, almost automatically. It could be because you tried a yoga class and realised you could hardly do any postures correctly (don’t be that guy), you could have seen some chick doing it and you used it as a chat up line. Or, worse still, you could be forced to do these exercise because you’ve had to visit a physiotherapist or chiropractor, due to the pain you’re in from being trapped in a dysfunctional body.
The real world isn’t a bodybuilding stage. Looks and muscle don’t take you far beyond Instagram likes, facebook followers and shallow admiration. Don’t be fooled, you CAN look good and move well. The concoction is producible.
All your body asks is for as much diligence with assessment and correction exercises as you give to your bench pressing, deadlifting, curling and cable crossovers. Even if it’s simply having an open mind to trying things outside your general scope, just give it a fair trial.
Everyone and everything is entitled to a fair trial. I’ve given the back bridge a fair trial and it’s fair and I can confirm: it’s no longer on probation.
Let me know……can you bridge? If so, how good is your bridge?