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Loading your shoulders the safe way

Loading your shoulders the safe way

Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CGFI


Performing any movement or exercise with the arm can cause injury or pain if the shoulder is not in a good position.

The other day, a patient came to see me for treatment of shoulder pain after lifting a heavy trash bag into her trash can.  She described the movement to me and how she hurt her shoulder and she wound up with a partial rotator cuff tear.

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint.  It functions the best when the ball is in the center of the socket and is able to roll around like it’s supposed to do.  The shoulder blade is part of the shoulder complex and is attached to the arm bone (the humerus) by muscles and tendons, particularly the rotator cuff tendons.

Properly positioning the shoulder blade and arm is integral in preventing injury and being able to create the most amount of torque or power with any movement. The key is being able to spiral load your shoulders.

Spiral loading is screwing your shoulder blade down and back, creating a stable base for all those muscles to create tension.  When the shoulder blade is in poor position, the arm can easily rotate into a poor position and create more strain and impingement on the rotator cuff muscles.  Pulling your shoulder down and back should place your arm in a position of EXTERNAL ROTATION.  You can read more about this position on my old post, “Empty can vs. full can”.  

Anytime you try and create force or torque with your shoulder in a position of INTERNAL ROTATION, you run the risk of injury, especially if the movement is over your head.  Lifting or pushing anything over your head or above shoulder height requires shoulder stability. The only way to create that stability is to spiral your shoulder blades down and back, and then you can move your arm with more strength and stability, reducing the risk of injury.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit us.


Image courtesy of Flare /

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