We use our shoulders for a lot of things; hold, lift, carry, press, push. Chances are, if you don’t do any sort of mobility or flexibility training, you’re shoulders are probably tight which could cause pain or injury. It’s easy to skip stretching, but you’ll pay for it during your workouts and throughout your day. Improving the mobility and range of motion in your shoulders can help improve posture, make exercising easier, and decrease pain and tightness in the shoulders, neck, and back.
I see a lot of clients that have shoulder issues especially those that sit in a car or at a desk all day. Most of those issues can be prevented through regular stretching and mobility work. If you find yourself struggling to increase strength on a particular lift such as bench press or overhead squat, it could be because you need to loosen the shoulder muscles. I’m going to give you three of my favorite shoulder mobility movements that I use on a regular basis.
- Shoulder Rolls. You can use a resistance band, strap, or some sort of stick for this movement. The wider your grip is, the easier this will be. If you want to feel more stretch through the shoulders, bring your grip closer together. The arms stay completely straight as your lift the band or stick over your head and rotate your shoulders all the way back until the band or stick is behind your back. Bring it all the back in front of you and repeat 20 times through. I recommend always doing this before you complete an upper body workout as your warm up.
2. Thread the needle. This might seem weird, but it comes from a yoga pose and will greatly improve not only your shoulders, but your back and torso as well. Start on your hands and knees and reach one hand across, sliding the arm onto the floor so you can drop your head and shoulder to the floor. Try to take the other hand behind the back, resting the back of the hand on the tailbone. Hold this for one minute on each side of the body. Incorporate this stretch into your post workout routine. I encourage to stretch for at least 5-10 minutes after you complete your workout.
3. Shoulder blade reach. This stretch will show you how flexible you really are and will be a good way for you to gauge how much your mobility and flexibility improves. Take one hand over your head and start to reach it behind the head, reaching down between the shoulder blades. Take the other hand and reach around the back, reaching it up between the shoulder blades. Try to bring the hands as close together as you can. Repeat this on both sides. If you can touch your fingers together, then you have pretty good mobility in your shoulders. If your fingers are far away from each other, we’ve got some work to do.
Another way to help improve this stretch is to use a resistance band or stick. Grab the band or stick on both ends with both hands and try to use it to walk your hands closer and closer together. Hold this stretch for one minute on each side of the body.
There are many ways to improve shoulder mobility, but these are three of my favorite that I find very effective. But they will only be effective if you do them on a consistent basis. Stretching and mobility is just like strength and endurance training. Doing it here and there or whenever you think about it will not produce the results you want. Take an extra 5-10 minutes before or after your workout to improve your mobility, not only in your shoulders, but all over the body.