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Weak Shoulders... need female encouragement!

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  • Weak Shoulders... need female encouragement!

    I am a 53 year old woman, 5'3, 128 pounds, and have been working out plus riding and mountain biking for over 3.5 years now. I am working with a great trainer at my gym who is really focusing on my shoulders and upper body strength as that is my biggest weakness. It is S_L_O_W going, for sure. My trainer at my last gym basically gave up on my arms and shoulders and focused on my lower body strength - but thankfully this one isn't giving up. I've a very tight t-spine we are working on loosening, and of course working on everything attached to it. We are working really hard on t-spine mobility - that in itself is enough to cause problems lifting anything properly over the head.

    Basically I just want to hear some encouragement from other women who have overcome this particular problem. My lower body and core strength at both in good shape - I can leg press 430 pounds 6 times, and hold a plank for just under 5 minutes. Of course one can never have too much core strength, especially dynamic core strength which is my current focus in that department.

    So ladies, speak up and tell me that there is hope for me! I know I shouldn't compare my upper and lower body strength, and certainly shouldn't compare myself with the others in my small training group, but it is so difficult not do to so...
    Last edited by Catrin; 12-13-2012, 02:07 PM.

  • #2
    Have you ever been checked out by a good chiropractor? Its possible the weaness is caused by a misalignment in your back and not just weak muscles.. ..and yes its quite possible for that to happen without it causing notticable pain. Might be worth getting checked and at least ruling out before putting more stress on it.
    Every time I hear the dirty word 'exercise', I wash my mouth out with chocolate.

    http://primaldog.blogspot.co.uk/

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    • #3
      It's been checked out by both physical therapists and a good osteopath. I do have some minor arthritis in my shoulders, but it is quite minor. Also some in my cervical spine, but once again it is not very bad. I will keep your suggestion in mind however. We seem to be getting SOME response from all of the hard work and that is an improvement.

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      • #4
        Wow, you can do a lot more than I can and I'm younger and managed to walk across the U.S. Leg press over 400lbs? Holy cripes!
        Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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        • #5
          One of the routines that you can try is the Low Mount Standing Abduction. This exercise works the muscles on the outer thigh, hips and gluteus. What you need to do is to get an elastic band and tie it to a chair or a post.

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          • #6
            When I started working with my trainer around 4 months ago, the first thing he commented on was how stiff I was in my thoracic spine.

            We do T-spine rotations and foam rollering for mobility and I did lots of work on squat form (as initially I had bad knees and also couldn't squat without leaning forward badly).

            The improvement has been fantastic in my case - I can actually now raise and lower my spine, vertebrae by vertebrae rather than in two big, stiff blocks....which is all I've been able to do for years.

            It sounds, though, as if my stiffness was much less severe than yours if you've had little improvement in such a long time.

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            • #7
              Spuddygirl, we've been doing those things. I've an entire hour of corrective exercises and stretches that focuses mainly on my t-spine and lats. After no improvement after three months with shorter, easier correctives my trainer replaced the list with a new one. They are more intense, and at first were very difficult but they appear to be getting easier quickly. Either that or I am finding unconscious ways to cheat myself on them - I really hope that it is the former. I don't do all of them before every workout but I split them up and do half of them before each group or individual training session, or when I work on my own. On one rest day a week I focus on carefully doing the full list and, depending on how my body feels, I might follow it up with about 10-15 minutes of strength work. Of course I also work on my lower body and core but those areas don't require near the same focus & attention right now as my upper body.

              As far as squats are concerned, I've no problem with proper form...as long as they are air squats I can do front squats with kettlebells in the rack position without a problem - though there is a decided difference in the weight I can handle in each arm. Back squats - or anything else that uses the lower body mainly, isn't a problem. The only limitation to my deadlifts is one of my hands has a grip issue - working on that

              As far as overhead work with bars - right now I am limited to unloaded 35-lb bars. Even with that little weight I lean backwards in a simple push-press (back to that t-spine problem). Even with lighter dumbbells I tend to lean backwards - though when doing single arm presses it is obvious that one side is the main culprit with this. We are not increasing weight until I can stop this bad leaning backward thing. There isn't any pain associated with this, which is a good thing but it can certainly lead to injury if we are not careful.

              After thinking about it, I am going to get a recommendation for a good chiropractor who specializes in sports medicine. I don't think I've an alignment problem, but it seems good to rule it out.
              Last edited by Catrin; 12-14-2012, 07:43 AM.

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              • #8
                The overhead press is really hard I don't have any injuries and so far I can barely do 50lbs. I've been bumping around 45 for weeks. I'm still new at this, too. I think I'll be working on these same 50lbs for the next 3 weeks before I feel like I've got them.
                Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by sbhikes View Post
                  The overhead press is really hard I don't have any injuries and so far I can barely do 50lbs. I've been bumping around 45 for weeks. I'm still new at this, too. I think I'll be working on these same 50lbs for the next 3 weeks before I feel like I've got them.
                  Is this a bench or standing? I can press 60 pounds in a bench press, but I am focusing on standing presses like a push press or single arm standing presses. In a push press or other standing press my left arm really limits what I can do...Frankly it is getting embarrassing that one arm can't press over 10 pounds (and sometimes less) while the other can do at least 20-22 pounds (kettlebells).

                  I finally remembered that my doctor is an osteopath....he can rule out (or in) a misalignment that might be part of my very resistant upper body strength problem. I've an appointment with him right after the New Year holiday. It certainly isn't from not working, and my trainer is a highly trained professional with a very broad, and deep, knowledge/experience base.

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                  • #10
                    my shoulder/arms are the weakest parts on me. I am unable to do normal push-ups. By consenses my pt and I just do maintaince exercise/resistance for these areas.

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                    • #11
                      I'm talking the overhead press. I think I'm up to 62.5 on bench.

                      You should see how awful I am at the press. On the last rep I'm like twisting and straining with my right arm about half a forearm's length higher than the left. That's why I have to keep repeating. Until I get it right, I don't go further.

                      Push press uses your legs to transmit energy to the bar. I just do a standard press. I've been working my way up from 20lbs since October and only in the last 2 weeks have I gotten up high enough to use a real powerlifting bar. I still think I cheat myself by bouncing too much off the bottom. The first rep is almost as hard as the last one.

                      OHP is really hard.
                      Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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                      • #12
                        I would say just keep pushing it. Are your shoulders small or wide. That may have something to do with it too. I have the opposite problem. I have very wide shoulders so my upper body is strong but my thighs just never get anywhere. Maybe genetics are making you work a bit harder for those goals. I would suggest if you get that upper body strength to not take much time off. It goes away so fast. I have to work so hard to get some thigh shape

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by BonanzaJellybean View Post
                          I would say just keep pushing it. Are your shoulders small or wide. That may have something to do with it too. I have the opposite problem. I have very wide shoulders so my upper body is strong but my thighs just never get anywhere. Maybe genetics are making you work a bit harder for those goals. I would suggest if you get that upper body strength to not take much time off. It goes away so fast. I have to work so hard to get some thigh shape
                          My shoulders are quite narrow, so this is likely part of the problem. I certainly am not going to give up. I just want to strengthen my shoulders and arms as I go into this next stage of life and develop a reasonable level of strength and to at least nail the basics of Olympic lifting. I know my age, gender, and probably genetics are fighting me on this but I am a stubborn woman We are working on my FORM for the clean and clean & press, but we are using dynamax balls for this right now until my strength increases.
                          Last edited by Catrin; 12-16-2012, 04:40 AM.

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                          • #14
                            You sound very strong generally in upper body to me. Just under 5 minutes for a classic plank is awesome.

                            Leg press feels unhealthy for my spine. I have very strong legs but don't want to put my lower spine under undue pressure. Doing a an L-plank while leaning against a wall feels a lot more natural and doesn't give me any pain in my spine.

                            My classic plank is only 94 seconds. Again I don't want to push it much further as it feels very uncomfortable for my lower spine. I am hypermobile - I can do a crab, so I have the opposite problem to you.

                            Re: shoulder muscles - I expect there are exercises you could introduce to make improvements in your shoulder strength specifically. I use downward dog yoga position and shoulder presses mostly. I expect that heavier lifting with deadlifts is the way to go for improving shoulder strength.
                            F 5 ft 3. HW: 196 lbs. Primal SW (May 2011): 182 lbs (42% BF)... W June '12: 160 lbs (29% BF) (UK size 12, US size 8). GW: ~24% BF - have ditched the scales til I fit into a pair of UK size 10 bootcut jeans. Currently aligning towards 'The Perfect Health Diet' having swapped some fat for potatoes.

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                            • #15
                              Thankfully leg presses and planks/etc don't hurt my spine - nothing actually hurts it (or I wouldn't do those things). Occasionally we do crab walks in my small group training. I've only done these once, but I managed to do them

                              I've been using conventional wisdom for almost 3 years now to increase shoulder/upper body strength and nothing appears to have helped. For one arm I can't press more than I did 3 years ago. I've certainly gained a lot of strength for anything below the waist, which is encouraging. My grip in one hand (the same arm) is currently limiting my deadlifts - I am up to ~120 on deadlifts, but working on the grip thing.

                              My trainer has a deep knowledge and experience base, and he is focusing solely on my shoulders during our individual sessions and I do a series of corrective exercises. I am certainly seeing some improvement on one side after less than 2 weeks with the new approach, hopefully in time we will see the other side respond...

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