Hypermobility (and 12 Steps to stronger, more stable shoulders)

If you’re interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Move Your DNA, Expanded Edition. If you’d like movement instruction via video, start with Super Supple Shoulders.

Last week I posted a couple of videos on how to become a better hanger when your elbows or shoulders are more lax than they should be.

After posting these videos, I received a lot of questions regarding hanging and hypermobility (which should really be called joint laxity—make sure you read this post on hypermobility that I wrote last year), so I thought I’d put everything down in one place.

Hanging is a heavily loaded movement. If you are having issues with your joint stability, exercise can help. Hanging can help, too, but after you’ve done some groundwork. The key to developing stability is finding the best exercises. Or actually, there aren’t “best” exercises, there’s just learning about anatomy and movement, and then your anatomy and how you are moving, and putting all that information together so that you know how to modify everything to make it beneficial (strengthening and stabilizing) and not detrimental (overloading your ligaments).

I’ve already created a ton of material that can help you learn how to assess and correct your movement. If I were to assemble a program of sorts for addressing joint laxity of the upper body, it would be:

1. Read this blog post on hypermobility.

2. Take my Super Supple Shoulders webinar. This is a streaming exercise class I taught in which you learn, among other things, how to check your joints for various cheats that will further compromise your ligaments. (This is a pic from the live course at the Nutritious Movement Center NorthWest, opening to the public later this fall. Sign up to receive announcements at nutritiousmovement.com.)


3. Practice not hyperextending your elbows when you’re in quadruped. That’s right, just get on your hands and knees and don’t hyperextend your elbows (the video below will help). Sounds easy, but guess what? It’s not. I see a ton of people in various types of movement classes carrying their weight with their ligaments (think planks, push-ups, and downward dogs) and not with their arm bones and muscles. Develop a strong (not hyperextending) quadruped.

4. Watch this video, to see how I’ve modified the plank at the elbows. Once you have mastered #3, you can go on to doing a plank or whatever on your knees, and then on your feet. Don’t progress until you can hold your position comfortably without hyperextending your elbows.

5. Watch the above video again and pay attention to the action between the shoulder blades. Are you collapsing there? If yes, start your stabilizing journey in quadruped; then you can walk your knees back; then, eventually, do it on your toes. Note: If stabilizing the area between your shoulder blades causes you to hyperextend the elbows, go BACK to the level (e.g., quadruped) where you can do both. Only progress when you can have both stable elbows and shoulder blades. No point in throwing some of your parts under the bus.

6. Read this post and watch this video on carrying. Carrying will make your arms stronger, but not if you do it like I’m modeling here—using the ligaments of my shoulder to carry the burden and not my muscles.

7. Carry stuff. Not all the time, but more often. Like your kids and your groceries. (Check out my Instagram account for examples on how to carry.

8. Read this post and watch this video to make sure you’re not thrusting your ribs and pelvis to take the load off your arms (yes, I’m holding a baby, but this could go for groceries or a backpack or whatever. Strong arms, strong legs, and a strong core are essential for carrying stuff. When you’re starting, things will feel too heavy and that’s okay. Reduce the weight or the frequency with which you’re carrying “strong” (i.e., if your body is collapsing just so you can carry something, you’re not loading your muscles anyway, so just take a break).

9. It’s time to go bigger. Read this blog post on hanging and swinging, and focus on the vertical poles for now.

10. Watch this video, and with your weight supported with your feet, practice transferring your weight from arm to arm, without letting your elbows hyperextend.

11. Watch this other video, and with your weight supported with your feet, practice transferring your weight from arm to arm without letting your elbows hyperextend or your scapulae hike up to your ears.

12. Read this sentence 20 times: Your joint laxities are affected by how your entire body moves through the entire day, throughout your entire life. By learning how to move your entire body better, and then moving it better, you will see spillover into areas you didn’t imagine could be related to how you move.

So I guess #12 is read this sentence, learn to move better, and move better, which is really #12 to #1,237,698. I guess you’ll be busy for a while, huh?


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11 thoughts on “Hypermobility (and 12 Steps to stronger, more stable shoulders)

  1. As someone with hyperlaxity 🙂 in both the shoulder and the elbow joints, this is right up my alley. Even though I had seen each of these individually, it was enormously helpful to go over everything put together like this and go through it again. After working on these issues for close to a year I can now hang without relying on my seatbelts and can even brachiate for two or three rungs. That is huge for me, I could never have done that as a child and I am now 56 years old! Thank you for expanding my mind and teaching me to expand my body (in a good way). my body

  2. what about your SI joint. How do you tell if it is hyper or hypo mobile? I am having SI issues and the pain is @#$%^&* butt I am willing to try anything. I just don’t want to do the exact opposite movement than I should be doing!!!! I bought some of your short DVDs on SI Joint stuff but wonder…..what if I’m doing the opposite of what is needed? How do I tell the diff? And may I please come and live with you for one month? hehe. I just got a new puppy! He is having “movement” issues too.

  3. THANK YOU for taking the time to give us this info sequentially. This is so helpful to me, did not even know I had hyperlax elbows until my RES showed me. Who knew?? Working on hanging now and once again remembering to pull my shoulder blades down is SO key, and a big help with the elbows too. Can’t wait to see your new facility and new website!!

  4. Thank you! Lining up ribs in the baby carrying video made so much sense. Not carrying a baby but it clicked for me! Also, I need those leopard garden boots 🙂

  5. I have a very unstable left knee (really, left knee, left ankle and left foot ). It wobbles excessively side to side, torquing in. I just had my second surgery in two years to remove popliteal cysts. (To add to the insult, I have a diastasis recti that significantly affects my balance.)

    Do you have any advice, education, exercises to recommend?

  6. ho! katy thank you! your post arrive on time, my shoulders have hurt all day! I’ll practice #3 for a year, because I just tried and it’s huge.

  7. Where did you post those videos on hanging that you referred in the first para? Busting to view them, can’t seem to find them in recent blog posts. THanks!

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