Let it be known, the era of the 800 daily crunches is over. And, this isn’t just because we’re concerned about hip and lower back health; would you believe that you can actually screw up your shoulders with inappropriate core training? Here’s what happens…
The rectus abdominus runs from your rib cage down to your pelvis; when it shortens, it pulls the rib cage down toward your feet. So, as you can imagine, if the rectus abdominus is tight, it can pull the whole rib cage too far down — making you look more like Quasimoto than someone who actually trains hard.
Beyond just the fact that poor posture isn’t all that aesthetically appealing and actually makes you appear smaller, excessive kyphotic postures have biomechanical implications at the shoulder girdle. When your thoracic spine gets too kyphotic, the scapulae abduct (protract) so that they slide outward on the rib cage (toward your arms). This repositions the aforementioned acromion process, as the entire scapula becomes anteriorly tilted. An anteriorly tilted scapula dramatically increases the risk of impingement on those rotator cuff tendons.
How do we counteract this problem? As Mike Robertson discussed in detail in Core Training for Smart Folks, you need to prioritize exercises for the posterior fibers of the external obliques, as these exercises will posteriorly tilt out pelvis without pulling the rib cage downward.
And, by increasing the strength of these muscles, you will take some of the burden off the rectus abdominus and shift things back into balance. When I see this problem in my weight training clients, I suggest droping all traditional trunk flexion movements and replace them with pure stabilization movements (prone and side bridge) and “lower ab” exercises, most notably the reverse crunch.

The regular ol’ Olympic bar will always be a mainstay in the quest for size and strength, but there are times when it’s to your advantage to get away from it temporarily. You see, with bench pressing and overhead pressing, it doesn’t give your arms any “wiggle room” — especially with regards to the forced internal rotation at the shoulder — in terms of their positioning during the lift.
Likewise, if you’re using the straight bar exclusively for back squats, the loaded, externally rotated, abducted position (referred to as the “at-risk” position by many sports medicine professionals) can beat those taters up over time, too. Fortunately, there are some pretty easy solutions on this front.

For benching and overhead pressing, simply switch to dumbbells or kettlebells for a week or two here and there. To increase the “deload,” you can use a neutral grip, limit range of motion, and/or perform the dumbbell bench presses on a stability ball.

For squatting try front squats, or drop squats for a week altogether and go after a deadlift or single-leg variation instead.

About Rolfing

About Rolfing

Rolfing® is a system of bodywork based on structural integration, developed by Ida Rolf...

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About Brad

Based in Bellingham, Rolfing practitioner Brad Jones has an office conveniently located in downtown Bellingham ...

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