Tag Archives: arm

Heavy Arms

Each of your arms weighs about 8-10lbs (roughly 3.5-4.5Kg).
That’s heavy… though we don’t really notice it because either the arms are hanging down beside you, or, if we do come to lift them, we use so many extra and unnecessary muscles to do the job (known as ‘recruiting’ in the Alexander Technique) that their weight is spread across the shoulders and neck.

Where’s the qi?
The result of this is that the qi is held in the upper body which means that
     • our balance compromised,
     • our breathing tends to be higher,
     • our ability to relax is diminished,
     • the flexibility of our necks and is reduced,
     • we’re more inclined to get headaches,
     • the rotational potential of our waist becomes less,
     • the range of movement in both shoulders and arms is massively impacted.

It’s all about the shoulders really.
The idea is to lift up your arms, forwards or sideways, and attempt to experience the weight of your arms. What this actually means is that, in order to get that feeling, you can only use the essential muscles. This will also mean that you will need to disengage the shoulders from the task; they aren’t necessary.

Weighing a fish.
The muscles that you use to do this should feel as though they are weighing a fish with one of those spring-loaded hanging scales (I guess that could be your hand luggage also, but the fish is a bit more interesting!).  You have to give the arms to gravity, letting go of the muscles so that they gently stretch. If you’re not used to this, it can make them ache as they undo, but it doesn’t last.

Now just do it for the rest of your life!
That’s how to use your arms in tai chi and qigong, but the concept should also be applied to every activity, whether cooking, reading a book, or driving your car, etc., in fact every time you start to raise your arms from the vertical hanging position.

Details of Tai chi and Qigong classes with James Drewe here.

How to Brush your Teeth/Hair (aka lifting your arm).

Don’t think about it…  Try lifting your arm sideways.

‘Recruiting’
Almost everyone will have involved both the shoulder & neck.  Alexander Technique calls this ‘recruiting’ muscles – you are borrowing muscles which you don’t really need to do the job.

To lift your arm out sideways you actually only need 3 muscles:-

  • Diagram 1: the Supraspinatus
  • Diagram 2: the Deltoid (lateral fibres)
  • Diagram 3: the Serratus Anterior

Supraspinatus 1Deltoid 1Serratus Anterior 2

The Supraspinatus starts the sideways lift, maybe the first 30 degrees; the Deltoid then takes over until the arm is parallel to the floor. The final lift to the vertical is done by the Serratus Anterior.

Trapezius 2What most people do.
But most people use the Trapezius which has its origin in the neck at the mastoid process at the base of the skull.

So if you want to lift your shoulder this is a great muscle to use, but using it to lift the arms sideways or even forwards is a waste of energy.
The trouble is that we get used to it, and the ‘correct’ muscles don’t develop properly.

What does correctly lifting the arm sideways feel like?
If you put the middle of your palm on the angle of the opposite shoulder (where the arm joins the shoulder), and then lift the hand/arm sideways, you should feel a ‘hollow’ appear in the shoulder underneath your palm, as though the shoulder is sinking away from the palm.  It should almost feel like a set of old-fashioned scales – the arm goes up, the shoulder goes down, and the ‘hollow’ deepens.
If you don’t feel this, there’s a fairly good chance that you’ve engaged a few extra muscles to do the job.

Arm lift 'hollow'The ‘hollow’; what forms it?Deltoid & Acromium (posterior)1
The slightly worrying picture on the left shows the ‘hollow’ that forms when you lift the arm sideways (abduct it).
The middle fibres of the deltoid (the lateral deltoid) are attached to the ‘Acromium‘ – which is the end of your shoulder-blade.
So when you abduct the arm, after the supraspinatus has done the initial 30 degrees or so of lift, the middle portion of the deltoid takes over.

Deltoid & Acromium 2 The 3 portions of the deltoid, front (‘anterior’ above in red), middle (‘lateral’ above in green), and rear (‘posterior’ above in blue) are in a horse-shoe shape, as shown in the diagram on the left.Shoulder muscles
On lifting the arm beyond parallel to the floor, you start to feel the middle of that horse-shoe.

BUT, you don’t if the Trapezius, which lies on top of the shoulder, hasn’t relaxed.

And the final part of the lift to vertical.
Easy, you can feel this yourself.  Put your opposite hand on the muscle – on your ribs, at the Serratus Anterior 5side of your body, below your arm.  When you lift the arm from 90 degrees to 180 degrees, you can feel something going on under your hand.

The muscle is tightening and pulling the lower corner of the shoulder-blade as if to pull it under your arm.  This makes the final lift as it makes the acromium, which is part of the shoulder-blade, rotate further upwards.

Brushing your teeth/hair?
There are so many daily activities that we do where we keep reinforcing the incorrect use of certain muscles, and brushing your teeth is just one of them.
To the list you can add – brushing your hair, drinking, pointing at something … in fact, any action where we lift the hand as high as, or higher than the shoulder (and sometimes not even that high).

Teeth brush 1 Teeth brush 2

All you have to do is to spot when you do it!