Do Your Arms Hang Low?

….do they wobble to and fro? Well, in that song, I think it was about your ears, and there were more subtle meanings as well that I didn’t get as a child. I also didn’t get the subtleties of hanging either. I was a child that liked to be planted firmly on the ground!

And now I’m making some advancements toward a healthier shoulder girdle by learning to hang. Last week, I posted about hands and wrists. Today I’m talking upper arms and getting them into correct positioning to hang well.

I’m also learning how to post a video. I hope. Rotation in the upper arms is easier to show than describe. I love this exercise in finding your upper back muscles! I hope you have fun with your challenge for this week:

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The Problem Isn’t Always Where You Think It Is

This weekend I went for multiple walks and each time I did just a little bit of hanging. Once it was about hanging on to the dog but also, we went out to the woods for an afternoon walk and found a few tree limbs. I love to have bark beneath my skin rather than metal. I think you will find that the first problem of hanging isn’t so much the strength of your shoulders–it is the softness of your skin. Calluses are healthy adaptations on skin surfaces and the first step to hanging from your hands is to develop some thicker skin. Literally.

The second thing is wrists. Mine are totally wimpy. And not surprisingly (although I WAS surprised) my forearms were stiff and sore today. So, let’s begin our challenge, not at the shoulders, but in the hands and forearms.

To watch an 11-month old baby do some hang time, check out this video of my teacher, Katy Bowman’s little girl, Roan. See how often she checks her hands? But she isn’t crying or acting like they are hurting, she’s just connecting to them. Also notice that her hands are almost vertical and pretty open along that bar. No need for a tight grip! I think it is safe to say that as adults, we don’t have that kind of strength in our hands and wrists, especially in extension.

Begin by mobilizing those tissues and taking them through a complete range of motion. Here is your first week’s assignment: do these hand movements throughout your day:

Full extension

Full extension

Full flexion of fingers and wrist

Full flexion of fingers and wrist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice which direction is more difficult. Why? What is your hand position during most of your day?  To correct a movement limitation, we need to introduce small changes  throughout the day  to avoid injury. I like to do the extension one at my desk regularly, while I stop at a light when driving, and while sitting around doing nothing in particular. I use the desk, steering wheel or my other hand to provide gently pressure toward my limit of mobility and hold it for about 30-60 seconds. This was the exercise I was doing today that made it clear that I HAD done some work yesterday.

Tissues–whether it is skin, fascia or muscles–will adapt to changes in loads. The key is to do these changes slowly and apply the loads where it does the most good first. Take a tip from Baby Roan and check out your hands!

The Hanging Challenge

This will be the summer of the hang. As in me hanging from my arms. I’m not dubbing it as the summer of the pull up, because at 53, so far I have never, ever been able to do even a single pull up. Which, I have to admit, pisses me off a bit.

In my 20’s, when I was working as a trainer in a weight room, I tried. I really, really tried. Every day I would use the pull up bar and give it a go. And I continued to fail. Every. Day.

So, rather than get my hopes up, I am going to do what I succeeded in doing–hanging. In as many different ways as I can. Every. Day.

Because, even if I never do a single pull up my entire life, I need to use my arms and shoulders as they are designed–to be mobile, strong, connected to the rest of my body, and when needed, able to support the weight of my whole body. I have seen too many people take a little fall and end up immobilized due to a broken wrist or arm.

As a Restorative Exercise Specialist™ I learned the importance of the positioning of the rib cage, how poor alignment can affect breathing, digesting, birthing, eliminating, and the functionality of the entire musco-skeletal system. Rib positioning is totally related to shoulders. So, weak shoulders CAN mean poor pooping. Who knew??? Who cares? Well, if you don’t eliminate well, you probably do–or rather don’t doo (sorry can’t resist)–and well, you probably care. Because constipation sucks. Or something…

Anyway. The summer of hanging has begun. Here is my first attempt:

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Keep reading dear reader! I’ll be posting every week or two about my experience. Can I challenge you to join me??