Tactical Athlete: Building Overhead Dynamic Stability

posted in: shoulder, The Lab | 0

Movement Warriors,

If your job description requires you to move and train because your life and the lives in your squad/platoon/company depend on it, then the following is for you.  Or more specifically, this is worth your time if your job requires you to do such things as climb ropes, help comrades over high walls, lift awkward equipment overhead, or hold weapons overhead.  (Oh, this also applies to CrossFitters and other athletes that find themselves in overhead positions.)

In this video, with the unplanned help of a couple of F-18s overhead, tactical athlete Alex Delacampa and Dr. Theresa Larson of Movement Rx discuss improving overhead dynamic stability to assist you when in the field, in the combat zone, or in training.

Before you start watching, ask yourself the following questions.  Chances are you’re probably missing a few degrees (or more) of full and optimal range of motion in the spine, shoulders, and hips.  This lack of full range of motion will manifest itself as shoulder stress over time.

  1. “Do I have full overhead flexion and external rotation?”  Or in layman’s terms, can you stand up straight, rib cage down, arms straight overhead, thumbs rotated to the outside, and elbows an inch or two away from the ears?
  2. “Do I have the motor control to recognize when my elbow starts to bend or my spine begins to overextend in overhead flexion and external rotation?”
  3. “Do I have high quality movement patterns when holding, pushing, balancing unsteady objects overhead?”

We will find out if you do. We are not perfect, nor are you, so work to attain perfection and ENJOY THE PROCESS!

Video Recap:

Here are the progressions and dynamic stability exercises Movement Rx would recommend for tactical athletes. Note that the length of time in these exercises is more important than reps. Depending on your training age (i.e. the combination of your experience, neuromuscular control, and starting strength), your intervals might be 1-2 minutes with a 30 second rest (repeating for 5 rounds).

  1. Walk with a barbell in overhead snatch position or clean position (especially if your full overhead range (elbows next to ears is lacking)) –  walking, talking, looking around, closing your eyes to challenge your position overhead.  Add lunges in the mix, step ups, holding the overhead squat in the bottom position for 10-30 seconds.  Then add in uneven terrain.  You want to maintain your spine and shoulder position through the entire exercise.  You’re working on building overhead dynamic stability and motor control here. This is not a test of reps, this is a test of time and how long you can hold out before you start to break down your position.
  2. If you’ve successfully been able to do 5 rounds with a barbell, the next level of intensity would be to use a sand bag about equal weight to a barbell.  With the sandbag locked out overhead, perform the same routine of walking, lunging, looking around, closing your eyes and hanging out in the bottom position of a squat, and walking over uneven terrain.
  3. If you’ve successfully been able to do 5 rounds with a sandbag, then the next time you attempt this exercise use a kettlebell.  This will stress what we call the FULL overhead archetype.  If this starts to get easy over time, and you really want a challenge, graduate to using a barbell with one arm.  If you can do this progression while single-arming a barbell with perfect form, we definitely want to see that video.