The Kettlebell Coaching Series Pt 3: Shoulder Packing

Our next installment in the “KCS” is centered around shoulder packing. In many ways, this is a follow up to an old post titled Scapular Stability Matters. However, we will focus more on coaching strategies and techniques used to address shoulder packing rather than getting all “sciencey” on you like last time.
Shoulder packing defined:
blog-examprep-091313-2To put it simply, shoulder packing occurs when you depress and retract your “shoulders”.
Take a minute right now to do the following (from a position of good posture… neutral head, upright torso, etc.): Press your shoulders down (depress) towards the ground and pinch your shoulder blades inward (retract) towards your spine. Now activate your lats… this might take a little work for some people. However, the cue of “you have a $100 bill between your arm and ribs… don’t lose it” usually works.  Congrats… you just packed your shoulders. If you wanted to take this a step further and brace your torso and pelvis refer back to the BOSS Position from one of our previous posts.
The Lats:
latissimus-dorsiSo much of this comes down to getting students to become aware of their Lats (and other “scapular muscles”) and learning how to get and keep them engaged. This is an important skill… not just for swings, but also for deadlifts, push ups, rows, goblet squats, overhead press, etc etc etc. Noticing a trend here?  Shoulder packing is a fundamental skill which needs to be taught (along with bracing) before performing most power, strength, and even core stability exercises. To get specific to the Lat’s role… The Lat attaches to the spine from T7 to L5 and has quite a few responsibilities…
“The latissimus dorsi is responsible for extensionadduction, transverse extension also known as horizontal abduction, flexion from an extended position, and (medial) internal rotation of the shoulder joint. It also has a synergistic role in extension and lateral flexion of the lumbar spine.”
In addition to being a prime mover or assister in a variety of movements the Lat also has the capacity to stop movement… When the Lat is isometrically contracted T7 to L5 is stabilized. When the contraction is strong enough (a sufficient MVC… see our last article if your unsure of this term) it creates stability in that segment of the spine. On the other hand, no engagement of your Lats means little to no rigidity in that portion of the spine. Therefore, you are likely to see flexion and/or rotation in that segment. This is a bad thing in nearly all exercises. As a “fitness coach” you need to recognize the difference between packed and unpacked shoulders then coach students to understand the concept / acquire this skill.
To the bell
Lets take a quick look at what a kettlebell swing looks like when a student fails to pack their shoulders. Here’s Brett, a CKI-1, at the beginning of our last CKI Seminar.
Brett’s rounded shoulders and thoracic flexion are obvious at the top of his swings. Both are clear indicators that his shoulders are NOT packed.  Brett cleaned this up in short order… In this next video we compare Brett’s initial swing to his new swing 30-minutes later after some skill work at a CKI-1 Seminar.
Now that you’ve seen the difference… let’s talk about corrections… Also: Thank you Brett… he has an exceptional swing now!
Here are a few drills we like to use to correct this issue:
As we always say… please keep in mind that there are many, many more options (for example: for some students all you need to do is introduce the high tension plank). However, we have found these drill to be some of the most effective in helping students acquire the skill of maintaining a packed shoulder.
In Brett’s case he only needed 1 drill to clean up his posture and it wasn’t any of the drill from aboveFor Brett, it was all about  the hip hinge drill. While this is not one we always use for this issue, if it works… it works.
Unfortunately, “Lat Amnesia” seems to be as much of an issue as “Glute Amnesia”. So… when you see a student having a hard time packing / keeping their shoulder packed (and you will see this) try some of the drills above.  Try other drills too… find what works. Go with whatever drill or corrective most effectively helps the student engage their lats / maintain a packed shoulder. Its all about quality practice. For those of you who read The Talent Code… as you know… it all about building myelin.
Great news you can learn so much more about kettlebell training on Saturday, 6/13/15 at Mavlern Prep. It’s our next scheduled CKI-1 Seminar.
Before we let you go… one last thing… A big congrats to Erik and the The Miller Family on the birth of Lola (FYI: this is Joe writing this and not Erik congratulating himself)
Lola

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