This week on social media, we’ve been focusing on why we pack our shoulders in kettlebell training. The act of packing the shoulders, simply put, is pushing the shoulders down (away from the ears) and slightly back. This engages and strengthens the Lattisimus Dorsi, or lat muscles in the back and underarm area.
The lat muscles are the only muscles with connections to the upper and lower body and they are considered part of your core. Strong lat muscles create scapular stability which helps protect the shoulder joint. Strong lats can also help take the pressure off of the Trapezius muscles in the neck, which is a common cause of neck strain. Since your lat muscles connect into the lower back, they can help combat some lower back pain as well.
In this new video, I will show you one of my favorite exercises to help teach shoulder packing. It’s called a scapular pullup. Unlike a regular pullup, you keep your elbows straight and don’t actually pull yourself up to the bar.
This exercise really engages and strengthens the lat muscles and you can do it nearly anywhere; the gym, a swing set, a doorway pullup bar, etc. Make sure you keep your elbows straight and hands shoulder width apart. Also be sure to keep your abs engaged and your lower back very straight in what we call the hollow position. In this hollow position your feet will actually be a little bit in front of you, rather than hanging straight below you.
Scapular pullups also help with shoulder mobility and it mimics the top position of a proper military press, so I often see improvements in pressing technique after folks do these.