Written by Nichole DeHart
Shoulders deserve a good amount of attention. They have a fairly demanding job to uphold everyday. Muscles associated with the shoulders carry out, but are not limited to, positioning the pectoral girdle, helping to move the arms, forearms and hands, helping to extend the neck . . . and many more. Unfortunately, the likes of the trapezius, rhomboid minor and levator scapulae don’t get nearly as much attention as their sexy counterparts, like the rectus abdominis. I would like to change that.
Good shoulder mobility is critical to your shoulder health. The shoulder joint consists of the humerus, scapula and clavicle, which are attached by five articulations and a system of muscles, tendons and ligaments. The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint and has the highest range of motion with six movements (flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, external rotation, internal rotation). On the flip side, the shoulders also have the highest risk of injury (bursitis, tendonitis, rotator cuff damage, etc). Improving shoulder mobility can help decrease the risk of injury associated with the shoulder joint.
We throw around the term mobility often, but what does it actually encompass? Being mobile literally means having the ability to move freely. Increasing your mobility when it comes to anatomy means increasing the range of motion to that particular joint. Our goal is to increase the range of motion/mobility in the shoulder joint as well as prevent injury.
To reduce your risk of shoulder pain and increase mobility, start incorporating some mobility exercises before you begin your workout. Here are five exercises that can help safeguard your shoulders as well as improve your mobility.
1. Foam Roll the pecs and lats
Check out this post for instructions on how to roll out the lats: https://www.crossfitinvictus.com/2009/06/23/wednesday-june-24-2009/
To roll out your pecs lay face down on the ground with the foam roller under one side of your chest. Roll over your upper chest from the sternum to the shoulder. Remember, the more uncomfortable the foam rolling is, the more that muscle needs to be released.
2. Y’s, T’s and W’s
Check out these posts for instructions on how to perform Y’s, T’s and W’s.
To perform your Y’s: https://www.crossfitinvictus.com/2009/12/09/thursday-december-10-2009/
To perform your T’s: https://www.crossfitinvictus.com/2009/12/14/tuesday-december-15-2009/
To perform your W’s: https://www.crossfitinvictus.com/2009/12/23/thursday-december-24-2009/
Wall Slides (or Floor Slides if you are really tight)
Wall slides are shown in the photographs above. But if you’re really tight, you might need to start off with floor slides.
Floor Slides: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Arms should be at a 90 degree angle with wrist and elbow making contact with the ground. Slide your arms upward, maintaining contact with your forearm, wrist, back of your hand and the ground the entire time. Lower your arms when either the wrist or elbow loses contact with the ground. Repeat for 8 – 10 repetitions.
For Wall Slides, follow the instructions for floor slides, except you will set up against the wall with your feet about 1 foot away from the wall.
Any movement that strengthens your serratus anteriors, which will help stabilize your shoulders. This includes scapular push ups (arms remain straight as you squeeze your shoulder blades together then push them apart while). You may also do this exercise with a band in a standing position. Wrap the band around your back and at the end of your hands. With arms straight, squeeze your shoulder blades together then push them apart. Check out Mark’s posts about strengthening your serratus anteriors: https://www.crossfitinvictus.com/tag/prehab/page/2/
Seated on the ground, bend one knee with the foot firmly based on the ground. Bring elbow up to the knee with a dumbbell in hand (the non working arm can help secure the body in an upright position). Pull the working shoulder back and down as you lower the dumbbell until your forearm is well below parallel. Return your forearm to the starting position, never allowing your shoulder to slump forward. A slow, controlled tempo for this exercise is highly recommended.
These are only a few of the numerous exercises one may do to increase shoulder mobility. To explore this topic further, check out the Mobility Blog that Kelly Starett updates with daily mobility workouts. His site is: http://mobilitywod.blogspot.com/
If you have other specific questions about your own shoulder health, feel free to ask any coach for further instruction on other shoulder mobility exercises.