Here are the top 5 exercises for unlocking your shoulder mobility! Tired of dreading the pull ups or overhead movements programmed in your workout? Feeling like you’ve endlessly been trying to unlock your shoulder mobility with little to no success? Often times, I see athletes struggle because they’ve been prescribed only stretching exercises with things like the “sleeper stretch”. Find out how to improve and maintain your shoulder mobility for long-term success!
We know that more times than not, unlocking your shoulder mobility requires looking at the whole body and the lift being performed. One of the top exercises is the prone swimmer! It’s an excellent way of addressing full range of motion at the shoulder and thoracic spine. To isolate this movement just at the shoulders and thoracic, engage your gluts and core to avoid compensating through the low back. Really fight for range of motion by squeezing your shoulder blades back and reaching for the ceiling throughout the prone swimmer!
KB THORACIC EXTENSION
Been stuck behind a computer screen working from home or in the office? Feel that nagging pain in your mid back? Are you an athlete who can’t seem to keep the barbell in the front rack position? Or, struggling with overhead squats? These are just a FEW examples of when limitations at the thoracic spine can impact either our daily life or shoulders during exercise.
Often, I see individuals doing backbends over a foam roller to try and open their chest or thoracic spine. Unfortunately, the movement tends to not be isolated at the targeted area. Take advantage of this exercise by focusing the movement only at the mid back! With freedom of movement in the mid back, the shoulders have more room to unlock true mobility gains.
In a 90-90 position with feet elevated, imagine keeping your rib cage DOWN and engaging your core muscles to keep the lumbar spine still. This allows the movement to only come the thoracic spine. The KB behind our neck facilitates a bit of overpressure for more range of motion. Remember, our mid back does not move as much as our low back and neck. So, the movement here should be slow, small, and controlled!
PRONE PVC PRESS
A “much more challenging than it looks” sort of exercise here for shoulder mobility. This movement works the rotator cuff complex while also working toward overhead stability and mobility. Frequently, I see athletes with a big difference between what ACTIVE overhead range they can achieve versus their PASSIVE range. The prone PVC press helps individuals achieve that range AND gain control/strength. Looking to improve your overhead performance? Improve strength and mobility? Prevent injury risk of your shoulders/upper back or rehab current ones? This may be your key.
KB ARM BARS
Another TOP exercise is the kettlebell arm bar. It is an incredible exercise for unlocking shoulder mobility and gaining overall stability. With more mobility means more responsibility. And, that involves locking in these changes with load and control. I frequently prescribe this exercise to my athletes looking to maximize their potential in high-level activities, like CrossFit.
To perform, place the KB overhead in one hand with the leg on the same side crossed over to 90 deg. Then, using that leg to press into the ground and have your shoulders stacked on top of one another. Imagine punching the KB up towards the ceiling to achieve an active shoulder.
The overhead opener is a great and easy exercise for unlocking your shoulder mobility. Use it as a simple component of your warm up for overhead lifts or presses. Or, for those who are stuck sitting for long hours — break those hours up with effective movement snacks, like the overhead opener.
A vital, yet neglected, part of good shoulder rehab is loading the shoulder. Too many times, I see athletes come to me for a second opinion after receiving only temporary relief from other providers. When we review their past rehab program, I often see some gentle stretches and theraband exercises that don’t match the intensity of what they do in the gym.
Or, they’ve been told to stop and avoid any movements that cause pain. Sometimes, this translates to the athlete not training in the gym; and the psychological effects that can take on an athlete is huge. Training while injured allows the athlete to stay healthy and avoid unnecessary rest. Because we know missing the gym is not an option.
So, we load. And, we load appropriately. Some ideas for modifying overhead movements that may cause pain are the landmine press and/or reducing load with the 1/2 kneeling press.
Interested in finally unlocking your shoulder mobility and full potential? Ready to have your movement analyzed by the experts to discover what movement or mobility faults are holding you back? At Onward Atlanta, we’re obsessed with getting you out of pain, the long term fix, and your best performance.