Why is posture important to a healthy, athletic shoulder and how does this relate to athletes and performance?

Let’s look at the anatomy and mechanics of the human body to answer these questions.

If we evaluate a person from a profile view; ideally there would be an imaginary plumb line that passes through the ear and shoulder, behind the hip joint and slightly in front of the knee and ankle joint. In this resting position, the body is in perfect balance and allows the joints, muscles, and ligaments to function most efficiently.

Good posture, in relation to the shoulders and upper back, has the overhead athlete’s shoulder blades slightly retracted (pulled back), which opens the chest like a soldier at attention and places the humeral head in an optimal position within the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint. This allows the arm to move about more freely with increased stability during overhead activity which will decrease the potential for injury, simultaneously improving performance potential.

Bad posture places the overhead athlete’s shoulders in a rounded/forward position; Pectoralis minor (a deep chest muscle) is shortened, tilting the scapula (shoulder blade) forward and lifting the inferior (lower) portion to protrude out backwards, creating a condition called scapular dyskinesis.

This rounded/forward positioning of the shoulders also places postural muscles at a mechanical disadvantage. The middle and lower trapezius, infraspinatus and posterior deltoid are stretched out/abnormally lengthened position resulting in a less effective firing pattern, particularly while decelerating the arm during follow through and positionally creating instability to the glenohumeral joint.

In turn, the amount of subacromial space for safe and effective movement at the glenohumeral joint is reduced resulting in impingement, inflammation and harm to the rotator cuff the stabilizing muscles to the glenohumeral joint. The pain from impingement causes a neuromuscular inhibition of the scapular stabilizing muscles perpetuating the entire scenario.

When addressing the rotator cuff muscles, the two methods of strengthening that are commonly used are unilateral (one arm at a time) and bilateral (both arms at the same time).

Unilateral shoulder strengthening, though it has some benefit, poorly addresses the scapular and postural muscles as the spinal stability is negated due to thoracic spine rotation.

Symmetric bilateral strengthening targets the scapular and postural muscles more effectively by working through a stable thoracic spine, which facilitates complete scapular squeezing, optimizes strengthening.

In conclusion, overhead athletes at every level should be involved in a comprehensive rotator cuff and equally important scapular and postural strengthening program.

The Crossover Symmetry Shoulder System is an effective postural strengthening solution that incorporates five exercises that specifically focus on extending the thoracic spine while retracting the shoulder blades, and addressing the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers. As athletes consistently perform these exercises, shoulder strength, health, stability, and good posture are developed, ultimately improving performance and preventing injury.