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Unlocking your upper back and shoulders

"Howya, are you guys surviving Quarantine and the Apocalypse ?( actually a great name for a Metal band now that I think of it!!!!!). If you're looking for subjects for another post or blog, would you do something on shoulder mobility or maybe post some links. A week of being at home has made me realise how locked up my whole shoulder and back area is. Thanks. Shane" Well, I reckon there’s a lot of people in the same boat. Tension in the shoulders and neck area is a modern curse. A basic understanding of the stress response, and a bit of physiology makes at least some of the reasons behind this clear and obvious. But, let's look at some exercises that can help restore freedom to the neck and shoulders, then we’ll get into the nitty gritty of how you ended up there in the first place. These “Cog” exercises are based on the work of my teacher Gary Ward, the brains behind Anatomy in Motion The theory is that the head, rib cage and pelvis act like cog wheels, as one turns, the next is turned in the opposite direction. According to this thinking the motion of the head and pelvis is the same direction, the rib cage opposes them. At least in natural human motion, ie regular movement, particularly walking, not exercise movement.

The goal of these Cog exercises is to restore this cog-like action, which takes the muscles of the torso through their natural ranges of motion, nothing extreme, nothing stressful, more like a massage. Here are three version of the same Wall Cog exercise: Head Nods

Neck Glides

Arm Spiral

The key to success in these motions is to get out of your own way, relinquish control and allow your body to “remember” how it should move. It knows better than you, so relax and let it go. How do these exercises help when there's so little obvious movement? Muscles in general do what they're told. And it is the central nervous system, ie the brain, that issues the orders. So if you hold a posture or use a particular set of movements as a primary, then the old brain will prioritise the muscle activity to support this. It's why we get the "Muay Thai strut" in our Thai Boxers at their peak competitiveness. Their lead leg almost never takes their full weight as they walk as they pretty much stay in stance. We see the BJJ lads remain in their flexed positions even when out of the gym. These dominant positions, whatever position you may favour, limits the joint actions used. Which changes how the muscles pull and release. Which changes how the spaces between the joints, the resting muscle tone, the freedom of movement for tendons and ligaments to slide, for blood and lymph to flow. These cog actions help reintroduce those actions we may have closed down through our training/habits/injuries. By stimulating the joints to follow the articulations caused by their natural shape, we send messages up the chain to the brain. This is why you MUST get out of your own way and allow the body move. Focus only on the one thing we're using to initiate movement, either the hands or the head in the above videos. As that bodypart moves, the next will be moved, which moves the next and the next. And because these motions are passive, the muscles are stretched and released, the various sensory organs in the muscles and connective tissues are stimulated by this stretch and send this information up to the brain. There's a lovely thought process that the neuroscience guys talk about saying that we hold a "map" of the body in our brain. The areas of that map we use are in high definition, those movements are easily accessible. The areas we don't visit are faded, unclear. This is why I tend to notice that using feedback from the body awakens freedom of movement far more quickly than trying to drive movement consciously. It's like the difference between fumbling around in the dark or turning on a light. If you're struggling to find the light switch, then give us a shout so we can get you on a video call and help you through a movement assessment. Booking options are here: Regards Dave Hedges

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