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Woodchopping & Your Shoulder

Woodchopping & Your Shoulder LIVELY

As April rolls around, the masses begin to descend upon Sydney Olympic Park among the pop-up gazebos, novelty potato spirals, grand vegetable displays and the argy-bargy of the showbag hall. The Sydney Royal Easter Show has arrived!

Amongst the many events and activities happening during the annual two-week event, the Woodchopping and Sawing competitions remain one of the most spectacular attractions, with furious interstate and international competitors providing a great displays of athleticism for the audience.

It is believed that the very first recorded instance of competitive woodchopping was in 1870 in the town of Ulverstone in Tasmania’s thickly forested northern shore. A £25 pub bet was made between a local Tasmanian axeman and a Victorian visitor about who could fell a tree first. Over the years, the tradition have evolved and been included in many local events, national Royal shows, and expanded internationally as well.

The Easter Show hosts several events including:

Standing Block: The contestant cuts a scarf into one side of an upright log, looking to chop half way through the log using a sideways strike; then a second scarf on the opposite side slightly higher, allowing them to then cut the log in half.

Underhand: The contestant stands upon a log that is secured horizontally. The cuts are made with downward striking motion, again a scarf is made on one side, and then another offset on the other side.

Tree Felling: This event involves a much taller block and a few jigger boards. Firstly, a cut is made into which the contestant jams a jigger-board that is fit with a metal shoe. The shoe is designed so that when the board is stood upon, the end grips with the wood to create a stable surface. The contestant then continue to create cuts and jigs for three in total. Once upon the top jig, cuts are made on either side of the log to fell the top section.

Sawing: Comprised of single and double handed sawing events, contestants win by being the first to saw through a block in a high speed rush.

All of these events require immense power and core strength utilising those oblique and longitudinal slings we mentioned a few newsletters back. It is an absolute great demonstration of athleticism and functional strength.

The explosive high impact and repetitive motions of the woodchop and saw events have a high functional demand for the shoulder girdle.

As for the average person, our shoulders can have a difficult time with simple tasks at the best of times. One possible cause of this is an imbalance in the rotator cuff muscles. The rotator cuffs are a group of four muscles which sit on the shoulder blade (scapula); the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor.

The rotator cuff works to stabilise the arm bone (humerus) into its socket (glenoid fossa). Much like a golf ball on its tee, the socket is quite small relatively its connection to the humerus; however, this allows for a much greater range of motion and mobility. This greater range of mobility means that the rotator cuffs need to work synergistically to stabilise the head of the humerus.

When this synergy is thrown off, through injury, overloading, disease etc – the individual may move with inefficient motor patterns (dyskinesia). This may require a combination of strengthening and retraining to restore this balance.

If you are feeling that shoulder niggle again, or are looking to get started in competitive woodchopping, make sure that you have the right tools; a sharp axe and a strong and healthy shoulder!

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