Fix Your Shoulders, Fix Your Runningby Brian Bradley - from Road Runner Sports
Are You Physically Fit?
The positive control of ones environment on
a daily basis without effort is what we believe to be the definition of
fitness. Yes, we said without effort. Ask yourself, while running, do
you ever feel like you are just not physically reaching that state of total
running efficiency? Do you ever feel like your breathing is not as it should be
and that it does not feel natural? Are you running with pain?
If you are like the thousands of runners that
enter our clinics every year, you probably want these things to just go away.
But they dont
they linger and the obvious side effect is that you
eventually quit running and search for the next fitness alternative.
The problem with that is you are a
and runners LOVE to run.
You think, eat and sleep like a runner. Now, it is
time to train like a successful runner.
Will Your Pain Ever End?
Know this: unless you have suffered a serious
accident, the pain you are feeling and the limitations experienced while
running are only temporary. They are caused by muscular imbalances due to your
compromised posture and part of that problem could be the positionnot the
conditionof your shoulders. Your shoulders should be level with each
other and positioned comfortably, not rounded forward. Any deviation from this
position places undue stress upon the shoulder joints and the surrounding
What Causes Your Pain???
Consider all the conveniences in your life that
actually render your body helpless in certain activities. Day by day, these
conveniences create a structurally unsound foundation of postural muscles that
compromise your athletic movements. Modern comfort produces an athlete who no
longer has the ability to run efficiently and much of this is due to the
decreased requirements that your shoulders are being asked to perform through a
normal, full range of motion. There is a constant forward-downward pull placed
upon your upper body which results in a very inefficient movement of your upper
body while running. Even though you are not moving enough to maintain your
function, you are moving, and it is that motionthe compensating
motionthat causes the pain. Muscles that were never intended to be
involved in the walking, running, throwing, sitting and bending (to name a few
basic functions), are called into action to replace dysfunctional muscles. This
puts stress and wear on your musculoskeletal system that it was not designed to
handle. Like a tool in the garage used for the wrong task, it eventually
It does not have to be
this way! You are a runner; all you have to do is wake up the athlete inside
that has been physically suppressed for far too long.
No, we are not asking you to be like the
Paleolithic hunter-gatherer, for whom daily survival provided enough motion.
But, we are asking that a little effort be put forth in order for you to become
more functional and eventually, the most efficient runner you can be.
Are You Lined Up For Success??
Running, as you already know, requires proper
pelvic movement throughout the different stages of your run and this should
coincide with an efficient bilateral arm swing. It is very important to have
this efficient arm and shoulder movement because it keeps your body centered
while running, allowing better oxygen transfer which results in a better
To help you understand this concept, try
Stand in front of a mirror. Notice your hand
position, arm position and shoulder position. Do they look the same on both
sides or is one off a little bit? That is, does one hand show only
the back of the hand while the other is showing the thumb and index fingers?
Does one shoulder hang lower than the other? If so, these are definite
indications that you are running inefficiently. Since the shoulders act as
counterbalances to your hips and vice-versa, and since the body is a unit,
correct shoulder and hip position have a direct correlation to proper running
form. If you have the opportunity to observe yourself or any of your running
partners form while running, you will see that arm swing is rarely the
same on both sides
but it should be.
So what can you do to help correct this?
There is a saying, If you do not use it, you will lose it. This is
true when considering your bodys overall functioning while running. If
you can say that you sit for longer than a couple of hours per day, it is
pretty safe to assume that your body has begun the downward spiral of postural
dysfunction. It is time to regain your function and it is easily done.
Try the following exercises: Notice how your
shoulders can affect your foot contact with the ground. (This may help explain
why your shoes are wearing incorrectly.) Take off your shoes and stand
naturally on both feet. Relax and close your eyes and try to notice where your
body weight is located from one foot to the other. Is one foot carrying more
than 50% of the load? Is the weight evenly distributed from front to back? If
you answered that you are balanced and feel level in your feet, do the
following exercises anyway! If you answered that you can feel an imbalance,
this means that something in your body from your shoulders to your feet is
off or not doing its job to keep you balanced.
Remember how you feel now because the next three
exercises will help reposition your entire spine and how it meets the pelvis.
These exercises are shoulder specific, but a large component of their function
is to enable your pelvis to change its position without your thinking about it.
See illustrations and descriptions below:
Exercise 1: Arm circles
The arm circles strengthen the muscles around the
upper back and shoulder. If you have shoulder pain, lower your arms. You will
be circling forward 40x and backward 40x. Stand with your feet straight and
your arms at your sides.
Hands tight with fingers curled in, knuckles
flexed and thumbs extended.
Raise arms to your sides and pull shoulder blades
together. Hold this position.
Circle up and forward 40x (palms down) and then
circle up and back 40 times.(palms up).
Exercise 2: Elbow Curls
The elbow curls are a great way to rejuvenate the
muscles of the upper back and remind your shoulder of its hinge and ball/socket
Stand against a wall with your feet straight.
Bring your fingers curled in, knuckles flexed and thumbs extended. Place
knuckles against the side of your head(temple) with your thumbs pointed
downward. Bring your elbows together in front of you and then open them up to
the wall behind you. Repeat this opening and closing 30x.
Exercise 3: Overhead extension
The overhead extension is a way to link your
shoulder movement into your low back and hips. Stand against a wall with your
feet pointed straight. Interlace your fingers, rolling the palms toward the
ceiling, extending your arms overhead with the elbows straight. Look up at the
back of your hands and work on keeping the arms vertical above your shoulders.
Hold for 1 minute and do not lean back.
Did it work?
Now that you have tried these exercises, close
your eyes again and notice where your body weight is located. Is it different
than the last time you checked? If it is, why do you suppose it is different?
You may be asking how shoulder specific exercises helped balance your foot
strike and stance with the ground. Correct shoulder and hip position have a
direct correlation to proper running form. The pain you are feeling and the
limitations experienced while running are only temporary. They are caused by
muscular imbalances due to your compromised posture and part of that problem
could be the positionnot the conditionof your shoulder.
The position of your shoulders has a direct
correlation on the efficiency of your running. It is more than safe to say that
the more lined up your shoulders are, the more lined up your hips will be, and
more efficient your running form will be. While getting your body to line up
may take some effort, eventually, hopefully, you will be able to say that you
are fit because you have positive control of your environment on a daily basis
When you are finished reading this article, you
will probably never be able to look at the human body again without analyzing
ones shoulder and arm position. Hopefully, that is what happens.
Remember, it is never too late. At least we know you, the runner, does not
believe that it is too late. Good luck and keep running!