November 14, 2011
This article is Part 1 of 7 of the new “Getting A Better Body” series that I'm writing for the upcoming launch of Tri-Ripped, which you can read more about by clicking here (which will also give you access to the other 6 articles in this series)
Compared to their running and cycling brethren, triathletes certainly tend to have slightly more muscular shoulders. But when you actually look at a triathlon junkie from the side view, you’ll see a rather unsightly phenomenon: a hunched back, slouched shoulders, and ugly curvature in the upper spine.
These slumping triathlon shoulders (which can turn into a permanent fixture on your body) come from a combination of spending long hours hunched over the saddle of a bike, working the internal shoulder rotators during swimming, while neglecting the external rotators in the weight room, and often a job spent sitting at a desk or computer.
So how can you get nice shoulders and still be fast at triathlon? Here’s what to do:
How To Get Nice Shoulders Step #1: Stretch your chest muscles.
Tight chest muscles can come from sitting a desk for several hours with your hands on a keyboard, from riding a bike in the aero position, and from swimming. Once tight, and especially in the presence of weak external rotators, these muscles pull your forward into a slouch.
To stretch tight chest muscles, try a doorframe stretch, in which you reach for the top of a door frame, place your hands on it and lean forward as far as you can. If you can’t reach the top of a door frame, just place one hand over the other hand, and lean into a wall.
How To Get Nice Shoulders Step #2: Strengthen your external rotators.
Although the most popular exercise for “strengthening” the external rotators is to grab an elastic band and do dozens of repetitions of rotation for the shoulders, most of us don’t have time to stand around doing that. Bigger, multi-joint exercises like pull-ups and rows work far better, and have the added advantage of burning more calories and working your arm muscles.
I’ve personally installed a pull-up bar in the door of my office (it cost me about $25), and I try to do at least 25 pull-ups each day (usually one set of 5 whenever I walk under the bar). You can also include regular or assisted pull-ups as a weekly part of your gym routine. Also include lat pull-downs, seated rows, cable rows, and single arm dumbbell rows – focusing on squeezing your shoulder blades back and maintaining a tall, proud posture as you do each exercise.
How To Get Nice Shoulders Step #3: Work the core.
Blah, blah, blah, work the core. Sure, you’ve heard this before. But think about it this way: when you’re riding a bike, swimming, or sitting at your desk, there is one thing that has to happen before you begin to slouch: your core has to get tired first.
But if your core is strong, it takes a massive load off your shoulders, and allows you to maintain much better posture. I personally recommend planks as the best way to strengthen your core and shoulders at the same time.
Try this: get into a front plank position, hold for 3 deep breaths, then switch to a side plank position left side, hold for 3 more breaths, then side plank right side for 3 breaths, and finish by holding a full push-up position for 3 breaths. Do that entire sequence without your knees touching the ground. See how many rounds you can do before you core collapses. If you can get to 10 round (about 7-9 minutes of planking), you’ve got a solid core. Otherwise, do this routine once or twice per week until you can get to 10 rounds.
Now that you’ve learned the 3 easy steps to get nice shoulders, you can be one of those triathletes who swims fast, but also cuts an impressive figure, and doesn’t have that notorious slouch, especially when people look at you from the side.
If you want to learn more about how to swim, bike and run lightning fast, but also have a nice body, (and get access to the other 6 articles in this series) then head over to Tri-Ripped.com for a brand new approach to training for the ultimate triathlon body.