Pects and Lats. For some reason I left PT school thinking the former moved your arm toward your chest and the latter helped you wipe yourself. Certainly functional, but not very exciting. Oh, and by the way they seem to get tight and keep shoulders in a forward rounded position-quite inconvenient. Then recently, I was in a Thomas Myer’s class on fascia and the instructor was going over the functional anatomy of these two muscles. They both do this funny little twist before they insert on the arm bone when it’s at your side. Weird thing for a muscle to do that’s trying to pull and exert force.
But…! when the arm is raised overhead that twist unwinds in each of the muscles and the true glory of the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi is beheld. They are strong broad muscles that connect the upper limb to the axial skeleton across many vertebral levels!
They’re designed to pull your body along with the arm, not the other way around. Think monkey in a tree if you’re open to evolutionary biology. These muscles want you to hang, they’re begging to swing on a bar, they’re aching to do a pull up! The bad news for many of us is that we either never do that, or by the time we do wander into a climbing gym, or a crossfit fit gym and try to use these muscles to their fullest glory, the joints between the arm and the spine betray us. Years of schooling, and working, and tv watching, and driving, and texting, and all of our other modern habits leave us with a glenohumeral/shoulder joint and scapula/shoulderblade in such poor alignment that performing overhead activities creates strain across our shoulder leading to tendonitis’s, rotator cuff tears, biceps tendon ruptures, labral tears-you get the idea. Is there any hope? I believe so, but it may take some time, devotion, and a little help. Regular stretching/mobility activities to allow for proper alignment, combined with strengthening for the scapular stabilizers is important for anyone trying to hang without pain. It’s also important if you want a healthy shoulder that lasts into the golden years and allow even simple overhead tasks like placing a plate on the top cabinet shelf or into the arm of a coat! If you’re struggling with overhead activities, I recommend finding a good physical therapist to assess your individual limitations and create a plan to meet your personal goals for your pects and lats. It’s not always easy to free your body to do what it likes to do, but it’s often well worth it!
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