The Greatest Joint

The Titan Atlas carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Our shoulders are capable of amazing feats – from explosive activities in weightlifting, to balancing the weight of our body in gymnastics, to high precision activity in dart throwing. This ‘ball and socket’ joint is extremely mobile. You can scratch your back, fix a lightbulb, perform a tennis serve. It can also generate enormous amounts of force. It is the fastest moving joint in the body. In a baseball pitch, the shoulder can be moving up to 9000° per second.

All of this is occurring in a joint that very little bony stability.

The shoulder joint comprises of the humerus (arm), scapula (shoulder blade) and the clavicle (collar bone). The clavicle is its only bony attachment to the axial skeleton. And compared to the hip joint which has a massive socket, the shoulder has a very shallow socket, akin to a golf ball on a tee.

So, what keeps the golf ball centred on the ‘tee’? Ligaments and muscles.

The rotator cuff muscles are 4 muscles that arise from the scapula and attached onto the humerus. They are usually described as being the main driver behind joint stability. But we now understand that muscles of the scapula and the upper back contribute to shoulder stability as well. The stronger these muscles, the more your shoulder will be capable of. Deficiencies in the system may result in injury.

Resisted external rotation is a common exercise used for rotator cuff strengthening. Most gym programs incorporate a lot of open kinetic chain exercises (where the body is fixed and the limb is moving eg lifting a dumbbell). Close kinetic chain exercises (where the limb is fixed and the body is moving eg pull up and push up) have a particular benefit in strengthening shoulders. Inversions (arm balances in yoga), gymnastic work on the floor, rings and bars are great higher level exercise that would benefit any athlete as they get the rotator cuff, scapula muscles and spine all working in sync together. If you are looking at improving your arm balances, contact the team at

A common statement we hear ‘I have got bursitis, tendinitis, tears in my rotator cuff, labral damage, osteoarthritis in the shoulder, exercise is not for me’. Well, stats in research have shown these changes are present in up to 96% of NON-painful shoulders (Girish et al 2011). Meaning it is possible to have a torn rotator cuff tendon and not experience pain. And a wealth of research showing that appropriate specific exercises are the intervention to assist shoulder pain (Holmgren et al 2012; Kukkonen et al 2014; Kuhn et al 2013).

If you are having shoulder issues, call the team at Ascend to bulletproof your shoulders today.