How many of you currently feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? The economy isn’t what it used to be and times are tough! If that’s the case, then let’s make sure that the weight of the world falls upon a strong shoulder girdle.
Your shoulders are responsible for all manner of things from filling out your suits and T-shirts to allowing you to ferociously spike a volleyball every Sunday at East Beach. Having strength in your upper body translates to better sports performances, and more ease with day-to-day movements such as picking up your children and moving bags of groceries.
The shoulder is made up of a number of different muscles each with their own job and responsibility. As this is isn’t an anatomy class, let’s keep it simple and go through a basic routine that will increase the strength of your entire shoulder area, upper chest and supporting musculature. Let’s continue to operate under the assumption that not everyone has a ton of time, nor their own equipment, and try out a workout that can be done at home, in your office in between meetings or anywhere else to which you can disappear for five or 10 minutes.
Before moving on to the actual workout, let’s talk about one of the movements, something that most people haven’t given much thought to since graduating from elementary school physical education — the handstand. Yep, that’s right, your kids are probably much better at this movement than you are and far less terrified. Worry not; we’ll get you back up there. Truth be told, the handstand is great not only for muscular development, but for midline stabilization as well as balance. Plus, it’s a cool trick to show your friends next time you’ve had a few cocktails.
Most people will need to use a wall when doing handstands, after —how shall I say it> — a long hiatus from doing them. If you’d like a mat under your head, feel free to put one down. Place your hands shoulder width about 6 inches from the edge of the wall and spread your fingers as wide as they’ll go to create as much surface area as possible for balance. With your arms locked and your shoulders engaged (pretend as if you are trying to actively push the floor away from your head the whole time), push off of one foot once, twice and then on the third push carry your hips into the wall, ending up with your legs pressed together, toes pointed toward the ceiling and your arms locked. If you have someone around who can spot by grabbing one of your legs on the way up, if need be, even better. If something hits the fan and you need to come down quickly, bring one or both legs down at a time and you’re back in business.
During workouts we tend to do all of our handstands against a wall as to gain the strength benefit without having balance issues lead to our inversion time being minimal. (Crossfit Pacific Coast’s gym record for a continuous handstand against a wall is 2:25 minutes for men and 2:00 for women if you feel like testing yourself.)
Once you feel comfortable with a handstand done on a wall, try opening up your legs and bringing one hand off the floor for added excitement. If that gets boring, you can always move on to the handstand push-up, which is exactly what it sounds like — a completely inverted push-up — head to the floor and then back up. These are more advanced movements that will definitely get you noticed at your next marketing meeting, but aren’t for beginners.
On to the workouts. Give these a go if you’re short on time but still want to work your upper body a bit.
Four founds for time — four full-depth push-ups (shoulder width), four full-depth push-ups (wide), four full-depth push-ups (diamond) with 30 seconds of accumulated handstand against a wall. Thus each round consists of 12 push-ups and 30 seconds inverted. The entire workout is a mere 48 push-ups and two minutes of handstands. How hard could it be? Feel free to email me your times.
Have at it.
— Traver Boehm is co-owner and coach at Crossfit Pacific Coast, has a master’s degree in Chinese medicine, is a licensed acupuncturist at Alki Wellness, and a nutrition specialist. He can be contacted at email@example.com.