Guest Post: Anterior Humeral Glide

Ryan Wood has been given the green light to go hog-wild on a post for this week. Below is what he came up with… be warned, it’s good – real good. Ryan may just find himself a regular weekly contributor soon:

I’ve noticed a growing trend amongst gym goers that is possibly more annoying to look at than guys wearing skinny jeans.

That trend is what’s called Anterior Humeral Glide (AHG).  AHG, for simplicity’s sake, is the excessive forward glide of the humeral head during a wide variety of exercises but especially during vertical and horizontal pulls.  You can see the problem clearly on exercises like a double or single arm horizontal row. Below is a video of a double arm band row performed incorrectly with AHG present.

Incorrect Row with AHG.  Notice the head of the humerus moving anteriorly.  This is due to an inability to properly retract the scapulae.

There are a number of problems as to why AHG during an exercise is not a good thing, but the two biggest ones are: 1. You’re flat out going to tear up your shoulder over time; welcome to impingement city.  2. You are in no way, shape, or form getting any benefit out of the exercise.  The whole point in doing a row variation is to strengthen the upper back, most notably the scapular retractors (rhomboids and mid/lower trapezius) which you totally miss when you fail to properly perform the exercise.

So how do we address the problem in order to help out the athlete/client?  First, check out the video below to see what a correct row looks like without AHG present.
 
Correct Row with Proper Form.  Notice in the performance of the row that the head of my humerus does not glide forward.  The retraction of the scapulae causes the humerus to align correctly.

 
Believe it or not some individuals just might not be ready for an actual row; they need a progression.  If you find yourself faced with an athlete in this situation, it would be wise to fill their program with exercises that focus solely on the scapular retractors. This will force them to be aware of how to use them effectively.  You can saturate their program with this work early on in the session or hammer the movements in their warm-ups… either way, just keep in mind that for someone who has difficulty with scapular retraction, this is hard work! So, let them be fresh and able to concentrate while they work on the form (just like you would make sure an advanced athlete performs the compound lifts at the beginning of a session).
 

Three exercises that can be used to teach scapular retraction:

 
Banded Scapular Retraction

 

Prone I’s

 

Band Pullaparts

 
Coaching cues are a must when a row (or any exercise, really) is involved.  If the athlete is not coached in the right way they can not be expected to perform the movement correctly.  Here a few coaching cues to ensure retraction.

        • Place your finger between the scapulae and tell them to pinch your finger

        • Have them imagine pinching a pencil in between the shoulder blade as they retract

       • A favorite of Coach Romo’s is to ask them how they would walk on the beach, and then proceed to tell them to stick their chest out!

       • The best one of all in my opinion is for you to physical direct their humerus back as they are doing a retraction exercise or a row.  Over time they will become aware of what it feels like to retract their scapulae

An exercise is only useful if performed correctly.  Retract away my friends!