The Forgotten Shoulder Muscle: Weight Lifting and Injury Prevention with Akil Piggott, PT, DPT, ACSM EP-C

November 28th, 2017

I spend a significant amount of time in the gym. Depending on who you ask, I spend too much time in the gym. But over the years I have been able to make many observations of “the average” weight lifter. Let’s have a dialogue with “the average” weight lifter and see what we can learn:

Me: How often do you train chest and shoulders?

The “average” weight lifter: Once, maybe twice a week.

Me: How often do you train biceps?

The “average” weight lifter: Every day. Just kidding…. Kind of.

Me: Do you do shrugs or any other exercises to target your upper traps?

The “average” weight lifter: Duh

Me: In the last month, how often have you trained your lower traps?

The “average” weight lifter: What’s that?

And that is where our problem begins. Let’s start with the anatomy.

The trapezius (trap) muscle has three distinct fiber orientations: upper, middle, and lower fibers. Each has various roles for scapular (or “shoulder blade”) mechanics.

Upper trapezius: upward elevation and upward rotation.

Middle trapezius: scapular retraction (similar to squeezing the shoulder blades together).

Lower trapezius: downward elevation (or “scapular depression”) and upward rotation.

Upward rotation is very important to normal shoulder mechanics. Without it, your arm would only be able to rise to about eye level. Both the upper and lower trapezius contribute to this motion. So what happens when you repeatedly isolate the upper traps while neglecting its counterpart? In short, pain. As a result of these poor training practices, the upper traps become the dominant muscles throwing off what should be a more equal balance between the upper and lower muscle groups. Over time, poor scapular mechanics develop. Poor scapular mechanics create poor shoulder mechanics. Poor shoulder mechanics lead to breakdown and pain. Without addressing the cause, pain will become a new normal until you can’t perform certain movements any longer.

Don’t be the “average” weight lifter. Train your lower traps to optimize your shoulder mechanics and prevent injury.

If you are already experiencing this cycle of pain, click HERE to visit us at The Training Room to have your movement mechanics evaluated and get back on the path to being a pain free weight lifter.

To learn more about Akil Piggott, PT, DPT, ACSM EP-C, click HERE.

*Akil is highlighted in the feature image above where he recently earned over-all runner-up honors at the Organization of Competitive Bodybuilding (OCB) Franco Classic in Philadelphia, PA on October 1, 2017.

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