Shoulder Anatomy – Why Knowledge Is Power

I am an advocate of self-help. If you want something done right, then why not do it yourself?

Sure, it’s easier said than done, and we’ll need to seek the help of an expert in certain situations. However, arming yourself with the right tools and knowledge to approach these situations is empowering.

This most definitely applies to injuries. With my laundry-list of physical injuries, I’ve learned so much about human anatomy over the past few years. Honestly, many times it has helped me more than what I got out of expensive doctor appointments. While I’m not telling anyone to use Google to “play doctor” (and please, if you’re in pain, seek out a medical doctor) , understanding the human body has helped me tremendously.

With an issue such as shoulder pain, as common as it is, most people don’t really understand that shoulder joint. I didn’t for quite sometime, but once I learned the anatomy of the shoulder, it was smooth-sailing from then on. However, getting there was a bit confusing.

So, this post will be about what steps to be taken and resources to be used that I would recommend for someone wanting to learn about shoulder anatomy.

Step 1: Learning the parts and functions of the shoulder.

For those who want things simple, I’d say to get an anatomy textbook. Although most college-level A&P books are dry and boring, there is on book I think is absolutely engaging yet packed with information. That text would be Anatomy Without a Scalpel by Dr. Lon Kilgore.

Anatomy Without A Scalpel
Dr. Kilgore wrote the book intended to be read by athletes and coaches alike. It is non-clinical and “readable” by the non-expert. I definitely prefer the format of Anatomy Without a Scalpel to that of the other A&P textbooks I’ve purchased.

If you have no desire to buy anything, you can always use free online resources. One website titled “” is an awesome site that helps present anatomy and movement to trainees. Under the section named “articulations”, found here, you can check out the muscles involved various movements involving the shoulder. when using this section, be sure to use both “shoulder/glenohumeral” and “scapula and clavicle”.

When looking at each articulation, take note of the muscles involved in the motion. It would help to look these muscles up on Wikipedia to further learn about the function of each muscle. Google images should also help with visualizing the muscles and joints.

Step 2: Understanding dysfunction of the shoulder joint.

Here, I’m going to link a few articles that have helped me learn about the various things that can go wrong with our shoulder joint. We can say that step #2 is more “applied”, where as what we did in step #1 was theoretical knowledge.

Eric Cressey’s Newsletter – AC Joint Impingement vs. “Regular” Shoulder Impingement

In this article, Eric Cressey has four other articles that he wrote linked at the top of the post. Read the Truth About Shoulder Impingement first, then Getting Geeky With AC Joint Injuries.

Eric Cressey’s Shoulder Savers – Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

These three articles, written again by coach Eric Cressey, lay out a quite a few things that can help out with shoulder issues, and also explains why they might help.

Finally, Bill Hartman’s and Mike Robertson’s Push-Ups, Face Pulls and Shrugs

Hartman and Robertson go into detail regarding the role of the serratus anterior in shoulder function. This piece was very helpful.

I hope this checklist is helpful for you. Good luck to you during your journey of learning.

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