Are you aware that humans have the same shoulder anatomy as the great apes: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos? This is because humans share a common ancestor with each of these apes. The ball-in-socket shoulder anatomy that apes have allows their arms to rotate freely around the shoulders making them very good at something called brachiation. Brachiation? What the heck is that? Brachiation is a form of locomotion using the arms to swing and travel from object to object. And humans are supposed to be very good at this.
So the question now is, why are so many of us so bad at brachiating? I mean, if you took the average adult and asked them to brachiate across the monkey bars, most would only be able to complete a couple of rungs before they fell off. And yet if you observe the monkey bars in your local park, you’ll probably see young children doing it with ease. So what gives? It’s simple really. If you don’t use it, you lose it. And this is a shame for more reasons than just not being able to complete a pass on the monkey bars.
Brachiating can help relieve a lot of the tension through the back and shoulders which are massive pain problem areas for many people. All day long gravity is pulling us down to the ground causing our tissues and bones to press down on one another other. If you never brachiate, or at very least hang from a bar with your hands, then you miss out on a huge amount of joint traction that would help to pull and stretch those tissues apart helping to relieve stress and tension. If you’re suffering from chronic back and shoulder pain, try hanging from a bar for a few seconds each day and work your way up to being able to do it for 30sec-1min. As your strength improves attempt some brachiation. Initially you’ll lack the strength in your joints and hands to hold on for long periods so start off slowly and gradually work your way up.
See if you can hang or brachiate for 7 mins cumulatively throughout the day. Work a sit down job? Then you definitely need to be doing this. Install a chin up bar in your office or home and get in the habit of hanging from it on a regular basis. And the next time you’re at a park with monkey bars…get up on there and try brachiating!
Here is a fantastic article by a company called Evolve Move Play entitled Why You Should Brachiate that goes much more into depth about the concepts of brachiation and its benefits to the human body. It also includes some amazing videos of people performing advanced brachiation techniques. So get out there and be the ape you were designed by natural selection to be. Reclaim your wildness!
Besides being a regular contributor to the Function Health Club blog, Jeff Doyle is also the co-owner of Function Health Club as well as a Personal Trainer, BCRPA Trainer of Fitness Leaders, Agatsu Kettlebell Instructor and Older Adult Wellness Practitioner. He also has a Bachelor of Human Kinetics. You can contact Jeff directly at jeff@FunctionHandF.com.