If you're interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Move Your DNA, Expanded Edition. If you'd like movement instruction via video, Whole Body Biomechanics: Upper Body is a great resource.
Last week I posted a couple of videos on how to become a better hanger when your elbows or shoulders are more lax than they should be.
After posting these videos, I received a lot of questions regarding hanging and hypermobility (which should really be called joint laxity—make sure you read this post on hypermobility that I wrote last year), so I thought I’d put everything down in one place.
Hanging is a heavily loaded movement. If you are having issues with your joint stability, exercise can help. Hanging can help, too, but after you’ve done some groundwork. The key to developing stability is finding the best exercises. Or actually, there aren’t “best” exercises, there’s just learning about anatomy and movement, and then your anatomy and how you are moving, and putting all that information together so that you know how to modify everything to make it beneficial (strengthening and stabilizing) and not detrimental (overloading your ligaments).
I’ve already created a ton of material that can help you learn how to assess and correct your movement. If I were to assemble a program of sorts for addressing joint laxity of the upper body, it would be:
2. Take my Super Supple Shoulders webinar. This is a streaming exercise class I taught in which you learn, among other things, how to check your joints for various cheats that will further compromise your ligaments. (This is a pic from the live course at the Nutritious Movement Center NorthWest, opening to the public later this fall. Sign up to receive announcements at nutritiousmovement.com.)
3. Practice not hyperextending your elbows when you’re in quadruped. That’s right, just get on your hands and knees and don’t hyperextend your elbows (the video below will help). Sounds easy, but guess what? It’s not. I see a ton of people in various types of movement classes carrying their weight with their ligaments (think planks, push-ups, and downward dogs) and not with their arm bones and muscles. Develop a strong (not hyperextending) quadruped.
4. Watch this video, to see how I’ve modified the plank at the elbows. Once you have mastered #3, you can go on to doing a plank or whatever on your knees, and then on your feet. Don’t progress until you can hold your position comfortably without hyperextending your elbows.
5. Watch the above video again and pay attention to the action between the shoulder blades. Are you collapsing there? If yes, start your stabilizing journey in quadruped; then you can walk your knees back; then, eventually, do it on your toes. Note: If stabilizing the area between your shoulder blades causes you to hyperextend the elbows, go BACK to the level (e.g., quadruped) where you can do both. Only progress when you can have both stable elbows and shoulder blades. No point in throwing some of your parts under the bus.
6. Read this post and watch this video on carrying. Carrying will make your arms stronger, but not if you do it like I’m modeling here—using the ligaments of my shoulder to carry the burden and not my muscles.
7. Carry stuff. Not all the time, but more often. Like your kids and your groceries. (Check out my Instagram account for examples on how to carry.
8. Read this post and watch this video to make sure you’re not thrusting your ribs and pelvis to take the load off your arms (yes, I'm holding a baby, but this could go for groceries or a backpack or whatever. Strong arms, strong legs, and a strong core are essential for carrying stuff. When you’re starting, things will feel too heavy and that’s okay. Reduce the weight or the frequency with which you’re carrying “strong” (i.e., if your body is collapsing just so you can carry something, you’re not loading your muscles anyway, so just take a break).
9. It’s time to go bigger. Read this blog post on hanging and swinging, and focus on the vertical poles for now.
10. Watch this video, and with your weight supported with your feet, practice transferring your weight from arm to arm, without letting your elbows hyperextend.
11. Watch this other video, and with your weight supported with your feet, practice transferring your weight from arm to arm without letting your elbows hyperextend or your scapulae hike up to your ears.
12. Read this sentence 20 times: Your joint laxities are affected by how your entire body moves through the entire day, throughout your entire life. By learning how to move your entire body better, and then moving it better, you will see spillover into areas you didn’t imagine could be related to how you move.
So I guess #12 is read this sentence, learn to move better, and move better, which is really #12 to #1,237,698. I guess you’ll be busy for a while, huh?