Scapular Stability: Why Do We Need It?

Scapular stability has been a phrase cemented in my head ever since I started lifted a couple years back. It was always implemented in my workouts with the trainers I worked with because it was vital to keep the shoulder healthy, especially for baseball players. Now, you’re all probably thinking the same thing I was thinking.

“What the hell is a scapular and how is it helping me?”

The scapular is the fancy scientific way of saying shoulder blade. The scapula is part of the shoulder girdle, which also consists of the clavicle bone.

In basic anatomy, we are taught that the scapulae connect the humerus to the clavicle (the humerus is the bone located in the superior part of our arms). The scapulae also welcome many muscle attachments, including the serratus anterior, pec minor, rhomboids, traps, and lats to name a few. In simpler terms, for the scapulae to function properly, the muscles attached to them must fire together to provide sufficient movement. Before we get into specifics on the scap however, it’s important to have a firm grasp on how shoulder mobility works.

Shoulder Mobility: Overview

Out of all the joints in the human body, the shoulder joint has the most range of motion. This is the reason why the shoulder provides us with the most mobility. Without mobile shoulders, various motions we perform would be difficult to accomplish, if possible at all. For example, a simple exercise like a pushup would most likely result in pain due to immobility. However, the ball and socket joint gives us a great range of mobility, so we don’t have to worry about this.

Anatomy

The shoulder connects the humerus, clavicle, and scapula together with three specific joints. These joints are the glenohumeral joint, acromioclavicular joint, and sternoclavicular joint. Here is how these three joints break down.

Glenohumeral joint: The ball and socket joint (shoulder joint) that connects the head of the humerus to the concave (hollow) section of the scapula.

Acromioclavicular joint: The joint that connects the acromion and clavicle together. The acromion is the superior part of your scapulae.

Sternoclavicular joint: This joint connects the sternum and clavicle together, as it’s name expresses. (2)

Movements (aka where most of you will fast-forward)

Below is an example of movement of the shoulders, it is also one of the most beneficial exercises around in regards to scapular stability!

The movements of the shoulder occur through motion of the scapula and humerus. The scapula can rectract (adduct), protract (abduct), downwardly rotate, upwardly rotate, elevate, and depress. For these movements to occur, the rhomboids, traps, serratus, pecs, levator scapulae, subclavius and lats must be working in sync with the movement they’re assigned too. For example, without proper contraction from the rhomboids (major and minor) as well as the trapezius family, the scapular can’t retract the way it’s supposed to.

Other movements that rely on the humerus include arm abduction, adduction, flexion, extension, medial and lateral rotation, and circumduction. The scapular is heavily involved with arm abduction and adduction because it must upwardly rotate and downwardly rotate, respectively.

Because of the shoulder’s wide range of mobility, something must be “insufficient” in a sense to neutralize this movement. This is how scapular instability is created.

So, if scapular stability is the goal, how do we get there? Thanks to a key article written by Mike Robertson, it’s quite simple to understand how to achieve a stable base for the scaps to function.

“If your thoracic spine is in a poor resting alignment, your scapulae will never be in the right position.” (3)

Thoracic mobility, the key to proper movement with everything we do with regards to our upper half. How often do you see people with rounded shoulders in everyday life? We see it a lot in older people, as well as people that sit in front of a computer 8 hours a day at their office. This poor posture is known as kyphosis, which basically means having a curve in your thoracic spine. If you’ve ever seen the Hunchback of Notre Dame, you can automatically picture the character with the worst posture in the movie.

 

Kyphosis at it’s finest, we don’t want this!

So how do we make sure we maintain proper posture throughout our thoracic spine? It’s actually a fairly simple concept, it takes basic mobility exercises as well as an emphasis on pulling variations to keep your posterior chain strong. Most of the time when you see poor posture in the gym, it’s usually one of those meatheads that have a hard time scratching their back because all they do is bench. Pushing exercises without a healthy balance of pulling exercises will cause kyphosis. Think about this…

Your body is extremely smart, it evolves with the movements we create. This is simply known as our muscle memory. If you constantly press weights without an adequate amount of pulling movements to retract our shoulder back into proper positioning, you’re going to have poor posture. Plain and simple. If you’re one of the people that have this imbalance, 1) learn how to workout properly 2) here are some mobility drills that can help you out!

References:

http://www.realfooduniversity.com/improve-scapular-stability-healthy-shoulders/

http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/is-scapular-stability-a-myth/

 

Why do Females Avoid Protein Supplements?

Hey readers, sorry about the delay between posts! I hope everyone is doing fine after the hurricane and snowstorm we encountered these past two weeks. School work and volunteering at my campus have occupied a majority of my time, everything should be back up and running smoothly from now on though!

I hear this all the time, and it couldn’t be further from the truth…

“If I start drinking protein shakes, I’m going to bulk up.”

Oh. I forgot that’s the consequences of protein intake. Bulkiness. I guess I should just start drinking 6 protein shakes a day to get to my set goal of 210 pounds. Okay in all seriousness though, this conception of protein has to change because it’s the key ingredient to achieving the goals that you truly are looking for when it comes to fitness, besides actual fitness. First thing’s first, however, what is protein?

Protein is one of the big three macronutrients that are a necessity in any diet. The other two, of course, are carbohydrates and fats. Protein molecules are made up of a chain, or multiple chains, of amino acids. In elementary school, we were all taught how amino acids are the building blocks of the body. This is how they come into play. There are twenty different amino acids that are used to create various proteins. To create these protein molecules, they align themselves up into different sequences due to the genetic code. Basically, amino acids are assigned a spot in line and create the specific protein with the help of a process called translation. Now that the boring stuff is out of the way (hopefully I didn’t put you guys to sleep!), let’s explain why protein won’t cause females to bulk up.

Testosterone is the main factor when it comes to dealing with bulking up. As you all know, testosterone is a hormone. This hormone exists in both males and females, but is seen at much higher levels in males.

So what the hell does this have to do with anything?

Well, testosterone effects muscle growth both directly and indirectly. Testosterone’s direct relationship with protein synthesis occurs when it connects to receptors on the face of muscle cells. When protein synthesis is increased, the muscles targeted through resistance training have the ability to adapt. In other words, these muscles grow! The indirect relationship testosterone has with muscle growth comes from its interaction with growth hormone (GH). Testosterone allows for the production rates of GH to increase. GH also increases protein synthesis as well as enables muscles to develop in size.

Because females do not have sufficient testosterone levels to support the increase in muscle growth the same way males do, protein supplements will not make them bulky (when used properly). Rather than growing in width like a bodybuilder, protein will help repair damaged muscle cells that lead to soreness after working out. This repair allows them to function stronger as well. Without protein, the ladies busting their asses in the gym are limiting their production of lean muscle, which could be the big difference between having that beach body or having that decent/mediocre/not as dreamy body.

I bet she’s had a protein shake or two in her lifetime.

Now that we’ve explained how protein works, we must discuss the types of protein out there. There’s multiple proteins available to us, we just have to make sure we’re making wise choices with the ones we buy.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is known as the “post workout” protein. It is also easily the most popular protein supplement out there. Whey is rich in three amino acids key for muscle building: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. This protein can be digested in approximately two hours or so, basically meaning it is rapidly digested.

Casein Protein

Casein protein, unlike whey, is a slow digesting protein. It takes approximately 8 hours or so to digest. Because it takes a while to digest, it is usually recommended that it is taken before bed. Another beneficial factor of casein is, it is not used as an energy source. Because of this, carbohydrates and fats are burned instead to produce energy. Casein has a much thicker texture than whey and is commonly found in weight gainers. (Females stay away from weight gainers!)

Egg Protein

Eggs are a food product that supply a great level of essential amino acids to the body. Of the 20 amino acids that the body uses, 9 of them are essential. An essential amino acid basically means that the body cannot produce these on its own. Egg protein consists of the egg whites of an egg. The yolk is taken out, which causes the cholesterol levels of this protein to drop. I have never experimented with this protein, but it would definitely be a great alternative for people lactose intolerant.

Soy Protein

Soy protein is a fast digesting protein source, like whey. However, soy does not have the amino acid density of these other three proteins. Therefore, it is my least suggested protein supplement. Soy protein does contain estrogen however, which could be beneficial in certain aspects for females.

Well, these are the 4 most common proteins you hear talked about, in my opinion. I personally have stuck to just whey and casein products, which have worked fine for me. It doesn’t hurt to experiment though, just make sure you’re doing it in smart and effective ways. By this, I stress that you read the nutrition labels on products you are buying. Some of these protein supplements out on the shelves are just plain garbage, glorified milk shakes. How is a shake with 20 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, and a ridiculous number of sugars going to benefit me in the long run. Something like this will easily do more harm than good!

Here’s a solid nutrition label for a supplement you would be looking for.

I am a big fan of BSN products, especially there protein powder called Syntha-6 (label above). They’re great tasting and produce results that you’re looking for!

Hopefully I convinced a reader or two on here that protein supplementation could be crucial if your protein intake is inadequate. Protein, and nutrition in general, could be the difference that makes or breaks your body for this upcoming summer! Got a question? Drop a comment below!

References

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/attention-protein-skeptics.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/413131-can-women-take-whey-protein/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/68797-testosterone-muscle-growth/

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/expert-guides/protein-supplements#16

http://www.stack.com/4W/2011/10/12/why-female-athletes-should-make-protein-a-part-of-their-diet/