For decades people have focused on having the most aesthetically pleasing bodies or being super flexible. Now, the name of the game is joint functionality. Many people still overlook mobility in their fitness and yoga practices, or they have no clue what mobility means. In a nutshell, mobility is the range of motion your joints posses. This is important because if your joints do not have full range of motion, then you are not receiving the full benefits of your workouts, and you are building up to potentially injure yourself.
The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the entire body. It is the only joint that can move in a full circle. This phenomenon allows us to have extraordinary experiences in life. This also means we must maintain focus on keeping the shoulder joint healthy. Most shoulder injuries can be prevented and many long term injuries can be reversed by developing proper shoulder awareness.
First Things First
When addressing shoulder mobility it is important we first touch on simple anatomy. The shoulders plug directly into the thoracic spine. I tell you this because if the shoulders are fully mobile and your thoracic spine is stiff, then the shoulder joint could become hypermobile; which is the opposite spectrum of immobile, and could cause you to strain ligaments, tendons or muscles in your shoulders when lifting heavy force or performing intense activities.
The other side effect of having a tight thoracic spine is lack of ability to access full strength in your upper body, and the posterior chain of muscles which results in overcompensation in most compound workout movements.
To keep things simple, our first move will be focused on unlocking the thoracic spine. This will till the soil so we can plant fertile seeds for shoulder mobility.
The move is called 90/90 and can be achieved by putting your legs out in front of you and bending both legs at the knees, positioning the feet in the same direction to the right side of your body. Both legs should sit in a 90 Degree position.
Keeping your shoulders down and chest up, place the hand farthest from your feet on the ground next to your body. Keep this arm straight to support your body.
Take your opposite arm and reach across the body away from your feet.
Bring your reaching arm back to it’s original side of the body and then repeat the reaching motion again. You can perform this movement in sets of 5 or hold it for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Mirror this movement pattern to the opposite direction to work the other side of your thoracic spine.
I suggest doing this motion several times per day. Over the course of a few months you will notice major improvement in your posture, strength and flexibility.
On To The Shoulders
The next two moves are really easy and provide new neuromuscular connections in the shoulder joint.
Using a pair of TRX straps or olympic rings, bring them out to a 45 degree angle from the anchor point. Angle your body to lean back at an adject 45 degree angle to the straps.
Keep both arms straight and stick your chest out as far as it will go.
Keeping your arms straight, begin rotating your shoulders backwards in a circular motion. Complete this circular motion 10 to 20 times.
Many people find this exercise hard at first because they have not moved the shoulder joint in this fashion while applying weight. Learning to perfect this movement will catalyze you to have shoulders of steel.
As your shoulders strengthen over time, you can practice lowering your body closer to the ground until you can eventually perform this movement in a horizontal position.
Lock It In
The key to progressing in any mobility is to gain control over the area of the nervous system that controls the joint movement. This can be achieved through several different techniques, but the most simple and fun for the shoulders is the seesaw. It may look and feel a bit weird at first; however, it is a game changer.
I always use this after performing mobility work on the thoracic and shoulder areas to allow the nervous system a chance to relax and fully understand it’s new responsibility to assist the joint in furthering the range of motion.
To perform the seesaw, stand with your feet together and arms out to the side. Bend your hands backwards at the wrist so your palms are facing away from you.
You may feel a little tightness at first, and if you do, then unbend the hand a bit until the tightness is minimal. Our goal is to get our wrist to bend to a 90 angle while keeping our fingers straight (This will take a few months).
The next step is to begin rotating the hands up and down in opposite directions. Keeping the arms straight and the opposite rotation of the hands going, begin lowering the left arm and raising the right up to the sky.
Look toward the right arm and continue rotating the hands. Hold this pose for several seconds and then repeat this movement the opposite direction. You will most likely feel a bit of tingling in the arms as you move through this exercise.
This is called nerve flossing and it gives the nerves a gentle massage. This helps to stimulate the area of the nervous system and brain we were activating during our previous exercises and sends signals to properly function.
Shoulder health is by far one of the most important areas to maintain a healthy body for your entire life. Continue to perform these movement patterns every day in an order which feels most intuitive to you.
These movements are also wonderful moves you can add into any gym routine, warm up or cool down.
Enjoy your healthiest shoulders yet!
Josh was born and raised in Lexington, KY. He played collegiate soccer at Transylvania University where he also studied business and psychology. Upon graduating college in 2002 he chose to begin a professional career as a restaurateur. Josh watched his business grow exponentially over the course of a decade, while he watched his health steadily declined. In 2011 Josh developed a mysterious disease, that modern medicine could not explain. He decided to embark on an optimal health journey to discover a cure. His journey lead him to receive his certifications as a personal trainer, RKC Kettlebell instructor and Yoga Alliance instructor. Josh’s unique combination of business, personal training and ayurvedic nutrition experience organically spawned a system that is guaranteed to upgrade the life of everyone from office executive to professional athlete. Josh now pursues his passion in teaching others to find their perfect work, life balance.
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