All officers know the aches and pains that come after hours of driving. Driving where you have little room to sit normally due to all your gear and driving where you have to use your Left hand to steer so your right is free to use the radio and computer. These ‘patterns’ over the course of a year or a career can have some nasty biomechanical repercussions which will ultimately lead to pain and then injury.
Last month I taught a class to both fire fighters and LEO’s from a small city department. While both groups had the usual aches and pains from the job and from exercise one very interesting biomechanical patter became apparent. The FF’s had little to no trouble with most of the shoulder stabilization exercises while the LEO’s had significant difficulty with the shoulder and core stability exercises.
Two groups of fit professionals with very different strength and stabilization patterns. We know that poor ability to stabilize the shoulder and thoracic spine (mid-back) can lead to neck and shoulder injuries. We also know that in a use of force hands on situation shoulder stabilization is very important as most of your force is transmitted from your hips through your arms.
Upper Crossed Pattern: As the picture shows an upper crossed pattern can cause many of the nagging aches and pains in your upper body plus it also causes some nasty imbalances that will often lead to injury. The big problem with a UCP is that every time you get back in the squad car you reinforce the pattern. Each time you get on the barbell press or chest press machine you reinforce the UCP.
By following these 3 simple steps you can not only reverse this issue but make sure that it never comes back.
1. Mobilize the Tissue: Without tissue mobility, flexibility and joint motion, the problem will never be resolved. Stretch the chest and lats and then mobilize the tissue using a massage ball or tennis ball. Hold each stretch for 45 seconds a few times per day and massage the tissue 3-4 times per week for 2 minutes each body area. Often, after mobilizing the chest wall and lats, LEO’s will immediately experience a reduction in neck tension and headaches.
2. Stabilize the Joints: Without joint stability, the ability to control your joint or arm in this case, as your body moves will lead to injury. Although we have strongly advocated this exercise in past columns the kettle-bell-get-up is by far the quickest and most effective exercise to both stabilize and strengthen the joint. 2-3 days per week for 2 sets of 5 reps will do the trick. Get ups are also fantastic warm up motions and happen to be very job specific.
3. Strengthen the whole region: Once we have built good mobility and proper stability we simply follow a 2:1 ratio rule. For every pressing motion you do when exercising you must do two pulling exercises. As an example if you do a bench press you have to do pull ups and rows. If it helps you to know there are pro-strength coaches that will not allow their athletes to do a press until they can do at least 2 body weight pull-ups; that’s how important keeping the Upper Crossed Pattern at bay is.
A few closing thoughts, never sit on your wallet. Sitting on your wallet will shift your hips and that has been proven to cause back injuries. Try to get up and walk every hour, just getting out of the car and walking will do wonders to keep you loose and feeling better. After all we are creatures of movement, we were not designed to sit for long periods of time, so get up and move. As a final closing thought there were two movements that really taxed the LEO’s shoulder stabilizers to the point where they were unable to maintain control. The first motion was a suspension trainer push up, using a device like the TRX™ to do a push up where the arms are free to move while the feet are on the floor. The second motion was the Kettle bell get up which we have included in this article. ALL the LEO’s were unable to stabilize the arm throughout the movement. This instability will translate into problems on the street, especially when it’s time to go hands on.