The shoulder area is one of the most neglected areas of the body, especially when an injury occurs and therapy is implemented. Many therapists like to isolate certain muscles, especially the rotator cuffs, even though our bodies never move in such isolated ways.


Moving naturally is not only one of the best ways to develop strong, stable, and mobile shoulders, but also to rehabilitate them if you’re recovering from an injury. In this article, I will discuss how to create superior mobility, stability, and strength in your shoulders using highly effective MovNat techniques.


crawl, crawling

Crawling is a safe, fun, and effective way to build strong, mobile shoulders.


Dissecting the Shoulder

Most people think of the shoulder as a muscle, but it’s actually an area, much like your groin. It’s comprised of three joints, three bones, and a lot of different muscle groups. It’s a dynamic area that, unfortunately, most people don’t use very well.


If you think about it, you can go about most of your day without using your shoulders fully. You often don’t have to reach too far over your actual head if you’re washing or brushing your hair. You might not need to reach behind you unless you’ve got a back itch. And why reach too far across your body when you can just move your body a bit more - reaching is just too much work!


"Crawling movements can be quite physically strenuous as it’s easy to increase the complexity by crawling up or down an incline or crawling on a natural surface such as a log." 

Going through your day with limited range of motion and without full use of your shoulders is actually very easy - unless you’re doing some natural movements such as swimming, climbing, crawling, and throwing. If you want to improve your shoulders, your gait, and your entire body, then adding in these activities is ideal.


I’m going to focus on some specific muscles, as well as two of the three shoulder joints and how these relate to the natural movement skill of crawling. I’m going to discuss trigger points, too, as they are effective in healing injured muscles and fascia, as well as improving joint function even if there is no injury present.


The Orchesta of Shoulder Movement

When thinking of the shoulder joint, most people think of the rotator cuff muscles. The rotator cuff muscles are what most people injure, or at least think they injure. But there’s a lot more that can and does go wrong with the shoulder aside from a rotator cuff injury.


The three joints of the shoulder all need to work in harmony with one another, as they’re connected by fascia, ligaments, and muscles. Your right and left scapulas work for and against one another and, as I’ve mentioned in my articles on gait , your hips have a lot do with how your shoulders move - and, therefore, how you move.


shoulder, shoulder anatomy

Several muscles attach to and cross over the shoulder joint, making it one of the most complex areas of the body.


If you’re not moving well, then tendonitis, bursitis, and other ailments can arise. Maybe you suddenly can’t raise your arm above your head and there’s pain on the outside of your deltoid muscle. Typically, this is because the acromioclavicular (AC) joint is not moving freely. Of the three joints of the shoulder, the AC can most easily become problematic, resulting in inability to raise your arm over your head. If you can’t do that motion without pain, then that’s still a problem, too.


If you trace your collarbone (clavicle) to the outside toward your arm, you’re going to hit a little bump. This is the acromion of your scapula (shoulder blade). Now, if you come down and in a bit here at a 45-degree angle, you’ll find a dip. There you have what’s called your coracoid process. This coracoid process, along with the acromion, helps to stabilize your shoulder - and that’s important if you want to crawl and/or develop power in your shoulder.


"If you’re having a problem crawling, then look for trigger points in the serratus muscle, which for the most part will be over the sides of your body over your ribs."

You’ve got three major muscles attaching to your coracoid process and, therefore, affecting your AC joint. One of your pectoralis muscles, your pec minor, spans up from your chest and inserts into that coracoid process. This muscle helps bring your arm forward and across your body. Also attaching to your coracoid process are your biceps, the short head of the biceps to be precise, responsible for flexion of the arm.


Finally, there is a very important muscle called your coracobrachialis. This is the muscle we associate when someone has pain while washing or combing his or her hair or if he or she just can’t get the arm up to that area. If your shoulder hurts when just raising your hand to your head, it’s probably this coracobrachialis muscle that’s to blame.


Locating Trigger Points

We can locate a trigger point that will help us when it comes to this coracobrachialis muscle. Again, come down from the end of your collarbone, dip down and in a bit, and right in the divot of your shoulder, where your pec comes into your shoulder joint, look for a tender area in there and rub that out. If you hold that area with some deep pressure and can move your arm more freely or with less pain, then you know you’re on the right track.


The Origin of Shoulder Stability

One major muscle that stabilizes the shoulder area is the serratus anterior muscle. It expands over the sides of the ribs and is responsible for a lot of pushing power - bringing your scapula forward. Think punching motions here, but also crawling. When crawling, you’re going to be using the serratus to support and stabilize your scapula and entire shoulder girdle.


The MovNat knee/elbow crawl is a fantastic way to restore scapular strength and stability.


If you’re having a problem crawling, then look for trigger points in the serratus muscle, which for the most part will be over the sides of your body over your ribs. You don’t have to go too far forward to find where the majority of the trigger points are, and you don’t have to go too far back. Like you did with the previous muscle, find that tender area and rub it out.


Crawling Techniques

So now that you know how your shoulder works and some techniques for freeing up both your muscle and movement. It’s time to get moving. One of the best ways to create some strength, mobility, and stability in the AC joint is to do some crawling. Crawling movements can be a great way to reestablish function and motor control, as well as improve core strength and posture.


The push/pull crawl is another excellent crawl variation for shoulder health.


Crawling movements can be quite physically strenuous as it’s easy to increase the complexity by crawling up or down an incline or crawling on a natural surface such as a log. The MovNat foot-hand crawl, which many think of as a bear crawl, is a great way to get some strength back in the shoulder area as well as stability.


There are also many other crawling motions to do, all of which will benefit your shoulder joints. So start crawling to regain your motion and strength in your shoulder joints.


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Photo 1 courtesy of Emily Socolinksy at Fivex3 Training.