How Do I Improve Shoulder Mobility?
Our shoulders and our hips are the most important areas to focus on when looking to increase our range of motion. They are the only areas that have the ball and socket joint, which is partially spherical end lies in a socket, allowing for multi-directional movement and rotation. If you are feeling tight in the shoulder, having trouble lifting your arm overhead, or having clicking or popping in you shoulder you most likely need to address that area. These are clear signs that you are on a quick path to a shoulder injury. Today, I am going to share with you 3 keys steps on how to improve shoulder mobility to stay healthy.
Why is it Important to Have Good Shoulder Mobility?
There are two very simple reasons why shoulder mobility is important and why it should always be maintained.
- Stay Injury Free
- Longer Athletic Career
- Increases Athletic performance
Maintenance of the shoulder should always be mandatory! Our everyday lives are full of unwholesome habits that damage our bodies natural alignment. For example, sitting at a computer. This is the most damaging position our bodies can be in, because it is limiting and shortening our muscles that are critical for movement to happen with in the ball and socket joints. With that being said, it is important that we reverse this harmful epidemic. This is critical to achieve maximum potential.
There are a lot of other benefits with having shoulder mobility, but they all can potentially fall under one of these two categories. Now that we know the basic principles of having good shoulder mobility, lets move on how to improve it!
First Step: Awareness of what’s limiting our mobility.
What are we doing in our everyday lives that have a negative effect on our mobility? Like I mentioned above, endless amount of sitting and working from a computer causes a lot of unnecessary upper body tension. If you have ever seen the inverted shoulder look, which is the most common when it comes too poor shoulder mobility, then you’ll realize that this has a direct effect on it. Take a look at the photo to the right. When all that tension is placed in the front body and neck, it then pulls your head forward. This throws off our whole kinetic chain. Our center of gravity is shifted and everything in our body reacts to this!
It’s crazy to think about, but when we have this type of gravity shift it places a lot of unwanted pressure to the knees, being a main source of knee pain. Also, your more likely to develop more body fat in the stomach do to this type of alignment making it an even worse combination. Having more body fat in the front will make it even harder on your knees because it will draw your alignment down and forward even more. This causes unwanted inflammation in all areas of our body.
Second Step: Body Awareness and Control
Now that we have a little better understanding of why this happens, we can actually start addressing the issue. Before I jump into the exercises to correct this, I wanted to touch base on BODY AWARENESS! Everybody is different and may have a slightly different reason on why there shoulders are inverted. Sometimes emotions can be a factor on why areas get tight. Emotional stress can be released by working out and mediation. Building a daily routine of activity and meditation is the best way to approach these types of problems.
Yoga may be one of the greatest tools to use. It is one of the few styles of training that can improve strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance. All which are important for all athletes, which is why I highly recommend it for everyone no matter what sport you play. Click here for information on yoga for athletes.
Third Step: Exercises to Improve Shoulder Mobility
Finally, the step that everyone is probably the most interested in. The actual activity that is going to correct the issue! Although, yoga is my personal choice of correcting overall posture! A combination of both yoga and specific exercises will work faster. When releasing tension, muscles are more forgiving and can be easily stretched out. A good way to release tension in tight areas, other than meditation, is foam rolling. Foam rolling takes an approach of releasing tension is specific areas.
Stretch Tight Muscles
After we release the tension in these tight areas (usually the chest) we need to stretch them out. Openness in the front body will improve shoulder mobility tremendously. Below I have attached three critical stretches that will loosen the front body that causes rounded shoulders.
3 Stretches to Improve Shoulder Mobility
- Chest Stretch/Wall StretchGo up to any wall or area where you can put your hand about equal to shoulder height. Slowly start to open your chest up and begin to feel a stretch from the pecs all the way through the shoulder. Note: Adjust height depending on tightness level.You want the tension to be mainly focused on the muscle and f you start to feel tension in the joint of either elbow or shoulder, then back off. We do not want loose joints!
- Hold stretch anywhere between 3-7 deep breaths. Breathing is far more important than holding for a time length!
2. Shoulder Squeeze/Back Bound Hand Pose
Roll you shoulder blades back and down. Clasp your hands behind you and squeeze shoulder blades together. Keep core tight to prevent any sway in the lower back.
Hold pose for 3-7 deep breaths.
3. Cow Face Pose
This one is a little harder to do than the other two. Take one arm and roll shoulder back and reach behind you and touch the middle of your back with an emphasis on reaching up. Take the other arm and raise it over your head. Bend at the elbow and grasp finger tips together. If you cannot reach, then use a strap or a towel.
Hold pose for 3-7 breaths. Repeat on other side
I recommend that you perform a warm up routine to bring blood flow to the muscles before any static stretching. Click here for my warm up series, foam rolling before stretching.
Strengthen Weak Muscles
The front body being loose allows for more openness and a greater increase of range of motion. Joint integrity is just as important to improve shoulder mobility. Joint integrity training brings strength to weak muscles. That is why resistant band training is very popular for the shoulder, because it loosens the tight areas up while keeping them strong.
The main area that we want to strengthen to pull our shoulder back is our scapular stabilization muscles. A good rule of thumb is that any pull type of exercise is going to be beneficial on pulling your shoulders back. Remember when lifting, if you have rounded shoulders, it is always best to pull more than you push.
Listed Below are the three most important exercises that will target this issue directly. I use them as activation drills before my lift.
3 Exercises to Improve Shoulder Mobility
- Wall Angle Exercise
To perform this exercise you need to place you back against the wall. Listed are all areas that need to be touching the wall at all time: head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, lower back, and butt.
Start with your arms about 90 degrees and slowly raise your arms up the wall while keeping everything else touching the wall. Lower the arms back down just below 90 and repeat. At first it may be very difficult. After the first couple five it does start to loosen up and get easier, while providing strength and integrity to the scapula.
Perform exercise for at total of 5 sets of 5-10 reps.
This drill is one of my favorites. I like to use 5lb dumbbells, but no weight is totally fine. The important thing is to keep a slow and steady controlled movement to activate slow-twitch muscle fibers.
Lay face forward on a bench flat or slightly inclined, and raise your arms up straight forward to make your body as an I, and then lower back down. Raise your arms up horizontally to form a T, then lower back down. Finally, Raise your arms up in between to form a Y.
Repeat this series for 15-20 reps. 3 sets.
NOTE: Squeeze your shoulder blades at the top of each movement for at least 2 seconds.
- Push Up Plus
Start in a push up position and let your body kind of set in to your shoulder blades by letting your shoulder blades squeeze together. Press up out of that position as high as you can go.
Repeat for 15-20 reps. 2-3 sets
To breakdown the information, here is the best way to improve shoulder mobility. The best way to describe the process is to give you guys a list of how to exactly go about this.
- Recognize where the tension is
- Release tension in tight areas
- Stretch and lengthen these areas after they have been loosened.
- Strengthen the weak muscles within the joint that are causing the muscular imbalance.
If you are still a little confused on how mobility affects our body, then check out my joint mobility page. It gives great visuals and examples of what happens to the body when muscular imbalances create poor mobility.
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