Around 2.5 million years ago, humans stopped climbing trees and started throwing. Of course, this bony and physical adaptation didn’t happen overnight, but through evolution, our earliest ancestors developed the ability to throw tools overhead (spears anyone?) which then allowed them to hunt much larger mammals from further away.

Make a big catch? Lots of food – and you live to see another day.

Advances in weaponry wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t also have the structure with which to throw – really fast.
Now, fast forward to present day, we still have the same physical structure, but use it in many different ways. Those who use the overhead throwing motion (athlete’s, skilled laborers, craftsmen etc) see repetitive stress issues from too much throwing and those who do little to no overhead actions have shoulders that are cranky, tired, and constantly tight.

The shoulder is designed with little stability to give us a huge range a motion – a definite advantage when hunting and gathering. But as we hunt and gather from keyboards and devices now, that instability is turning into a liability.

Shoulder and rotator cuff injuries are some of the most common issues to modern day humans. So, what can you do to increase shoulder stability and stave off an injury?

  1. Use your shoulders. The shoulder joint was designed for a ton of range of motion – in front of you, overhead, behind you etc, make sure you take your shoulder through all of those movements daily. An easy way to remember this is a tip from Katy Bowman’s book, Dynamic Aging, where she suggests to touch the top of the door frame every time you walk through it. This will at least get you moving your shoulders in the overhead plane multiple times a day.
    Bonus points if you install a chin up/pull-up bar and hang for a few seconds as you pass through!
  2. Increase grip strength. I’ve harped on and on about the importance of grip strength to ensure the health of the entire upper limb. Your hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck will thank you once you’ve increased your strength and no longer are relying on structure to hold you together. Just using your shoulders is not enough, as most of the things we are hanging on to (laptops, cell phones etc) are getting even lighter. Build grip strength by hanging in doorways and from the bonus chin-up/pull-up bar you bought from suggestion #1. See this video for more info.
  3. Bear weight. Hand and wrist discomfort in push-up and plank positions is very common and the biggest cause for this is lack of practice. Yes, we weren’t designed to walk on our hands, but you most certainly should have enough strength to push yourself off the floor with your hands (you know, like if you fell down?). Practice bearing weight on your hands in a plank position, starting with the hands higher than the feet, like I am in this image until you can tolerate being in the full plank position. You can get creative with hand and foot placement as well, try it with your feet closer to your hands, further from your hands, closer together, or even balancing on hand at a time. Play!How to Build Strong and Stable Shoulders


Check out the video below for the latest episode of Anatomy with Alex, where I discuss Shoulder Stability, what causes instability and fixes you can do right now to help strengthen your shoulders.

Tune in every Wednesday at 3:15pm PST on the AE Wellness Facebook Page for Anatomy with Alex, my weekly show where I teach you anatomy and physiology in ways that are relevant to you in your life so you can maximize your mobility and live pain-free in your body.

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