Written by Zach Erick
The shoulder is an amazing joint. Compared to other joints in the body, it’s mobility is unmatched. The shoulder has over 180 degrees of motion through flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction.
Typically when we warm up our shoulders we may do some pressing movements, maybe some internal/external rotation, but very rarely do we ever warm up our shoulders using the full range of motion, outside of pass-throughs with the PVC pipe. Which is why the Xiaopeng (pronounced shou-peng) is one of my favorite exercises for the shoulder. All you need to perform this movement is a single dumbbell between 5-10 lbs.
Start with the elbow fully extended, hand by the hip, palm facing forward.
Slowly raise the arm (keeping the elbow extended) in front of the body while simultaneously rotating your hips in the opposite direction of the arm being raised.
Once the dumbbell is overhead and the bicep is in line with the ear, rotate your hips to face in the opposite direction and externally rotate the shoulder and wrist so the palm is facing backwards.
Slowly lower your arm (keeping the elbow fully extended) behind your body until the dumbbell is, again, in-line with the hip, palm facing forward.
The Xiaopeng is meant to be done slowly with a light weight. Remember this is just a warm-up/mobility exercise, so limit your reps to about five per arm for no more than five sets total. Keeping the elbow fully extended throughout the movement is extremely important.
If you find yourself flexing or breaking at the elbow, use a lighter weight. Incorporate this movement into your warm-up or daily mobility session and you’ll notice your shoulders will be stronger in straight-arm positions (push-ups, dips, presses), more mobile on the pull-up bar or rings, and it will be an overall healthier and happier joint.