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An Arm bar A Day Keeps Shoulder Pain At Bay

A Simple Shoulder Movement to Reduce Pain and Injury

You may be thinking that I am going to talk about an armbar in mixed martial arts (MMA). I am no MMA professional, nor do I even know how to put someone in an armbar.

This particular armbar is from the fitness world. It is an exercise that can dramatically improve your shoulder mobility and posture, something we all could use a little more of. With our forward posture positions from daily activities such as texting, driving, sitting at a desk, and eating, our shoulder tends to gravitate forward just a little bit too much.

The kettlebell armbar is the single best shoulder mobility and stability drill that you can practice. It provides both functional applications to both specific training movements such as the overhead press or tennis and daily life movements such as checking your review mirror and putting up something high on a shelf. Anyone of any level can benefit from this exercise and it is easy to perform.

Why Is the Arm Bar Needed?

In our world today we have no choice but to put ourselves in forward-posture positions. We sit in meetings all day at work, endless hours at a computer, or maybe it’s the long commute to work each day. Either way, those postures can encourage excessive internal rotation, stiff tissue, and poorly moving glenohumeral (shoulder) joint. This can cause an unfavorable range of motion and even pain in the shoulder, increasing the chances of injury.

The shoulder joint also needs to be stable and if mobility and flexibility are compromises, it will be hard to gain stability. The armbar helps both by encouraging the proper position of the shoulder and activation and strength of the rotator cuff muscles.

The shoulder joint is not the only area that can be compromised due to poor posture. The thoracic spine also takes a good beating and can become very stiff. If the thoracic spine is not supple the shoulder joint will have a hard time functioning to full capacity. When our thoracic spine is stiff, the body finds other structures to move in order to make an action happen. The body then typically resorts to using the lumbar spine.

As you can see, poor shoulder position causes a stiff thoracic spine, which leads to the lower back doing work it shouldn’t. The armbar can help take care of all of these issues. The armbar mobilizes the shoulder and begins to stretch and move these tight tissues. It puts the shoulder joint in the right position packing the shoulder and stabilizing it. It encourages the shoulder to move freely without any major force application.

Performing The Arm Bar

  1. Lay on your back. Set up with a *light kettlebell in your left hand. Press the left arm to lockout for the entirety of the movement. The starting position should look like that of a get-up.
  2. Bring the stance narrow and the right hand vertically overhead, palm up.
  3. Using your left leg, drive the torso into a roll, using the right leg and right arm as the axis.
  4. Place your left knee on the ground at a right angle from your hip. Your head rests on your right bicep.
  5. Stacking the shoulders and the hips, begin to rotate the torso, leaving the kettlebell at “proprioceptive vertical.” Proprioceptive vertical describes the center of mass of support. If the bell is big enough, the center of mass may be over the shoulder joint and the arm appear tilted. This is only usually the case with larger bells.
  6. Flex your left shoulder. Use your lat to pull the shoulder blade down, packing the joint into a stable position while still relaxing your neck and resting your head on your right bicep.
  7. Begin to straighten out both legs. Your knees should lock and your toes should point.
  8. In this position, you can now start a breathing rhythm that coincides with a
    glute contraction. Contract your left glute and exhale simultaneously. The left side of the chest will follow this rhythm also slowly getting closer to the ground with each rep.
  9. Allow the shoulder blades to pull together but never up. Do not shrug. Pack the lats down and allow for the scapula to slide over the rib cage smoothly.
  10. After five or so breath/contractions, slowly reverse the movement. Return to a supine lying position before haloing the bell safely repeating on the opposite side.

Start by performing three reps on each side, holding for five breaths/contractions. Use a light bell, to begin with. The purpose of this drill is not an excessive range of motion or load. The integrity of the joints, muscles, and the movement should be respected at all times.

*I would advise females to use 10-12kg and males to use 16-20kg, to begin with, but choose what you feel is appropriate for your level and needs.


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