Exercise of the Week: Kettlebell Armbar

In the past I have talked about improving the scapular stabilizers of the shoulder to aid in treating those with shoulder injuries (Bicipital tendonopathy, rotator cuff tendonitis/tendonopathy, shoulder impingements).  Our shoulder’s primary responsibility is to be a mobile joint while the scapulo-thoracic “joint” is supposed to be stable.  The mobility and function of our shoulder joint improves when the scapula is stable.

This is like building a house on marsh land versus a house which is built on rock.  The house that has a poor base of support will result in the house shifting (scapular stability) and result in doors not closing properly (the shoulder moving poorly).  One way of discovering if you have poor scapular stability is by performing a pushup and watching what the shoulder blades do. If they wing out away from the body then there is poor stability.

Here is one exercise I have been starting to recommend some of my patients, especially those who enjoy training for Crossfit, called the arm bar.  What I like about this exercise is that it requires the scapula to be stable as the shoulder has to be strong as it moves into different angles of horizontal adduction/abduction.

Making sure you are able to squeeze the shoulder blades fully ensures that there are no scapular movement restrictions which may affect the stability of the scapulae.  I often find myself using Active Release Techniques on the serratus anterior muscles and pectoralis minor muscles to improve this mobility.

If you use a kettlebell and place it in the bottoms up position this results in you needing to grip the kettlebell more.  From what I have been reading from different sources increasing grip results in an increase in activity of the scapular stabilizers.  Note: I need to find out if this is research based.

Give this exercise a try and tell me what you think?

Dr Notley
Treating sports injuries and spinal injuries as an Athletic Therapist/Chiropractor since 2000

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