What is a Shoulder Harness?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann
Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

A shoulder harness is a device that, when worn properly, distributes the weight of an attached apparatus across a wide area of the body. By spreading the load out, the user is able to perform a greater amount of work without fatigue. Many sports involve the use of a shoulder harness, as do many professions. The shoulder harness can be manufactured from a wide array of materials — from leather to nylon — and can include metal or plastic fasteners and hook-and-loop fastening devices as well.

When wearing a shoulder harness, it is critical that it be worn correctly. Failure to wear the shoulder harness in the specified manner could result in a serious medical injury. When the harness is worn properly, the level of performance is usually much greater than without the harness. Using the harness to focus the targeted area of the load to a specific spot of the body allows the body to function at its best and will obtain the best results.

There are typically two types of shoulder harnesses. One type places the load on both shoulders and the lower back. The second type involves using only one shoulder and places more emphasis on the upper leg muscles. The twin shoulder is used when dealing with higher weight or resistance amounts. This harness allows the user to focus on pulling the load with the body's core. This is the strongest part of the body and balances out nicely. The single harness allows the user to pull harder with the legs and allows them to lean into the weight much further.

The shoulder harness was utilized by military forces more than 1,000 years ago when it was discovered that soldiers could carry a weighty pack much longer on their back than in their arms. The ability to carry equipment while keeping the arms free to fight and to avoid exhaustion was a welcome addition to many armies. For the soldier, the ability to fight while in motion created an advantage over an adversary who must carry his supplies and then drop them in order to wage battle.

The shoulder harness was a boon to business as it aided a single worker in doing the work of two or more employees. Mail deliveries could be accomplished by a single person with a mail bag draped over the shoulder. Ice and coal deliveries could be accomplished by placing the products in packs suspended from the delivery man's shoulders. Also women could now carry hand bags over the shoulder, leaving both arms free to hold a child.

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      Woman with hand on her hip