Last month, we wrote about the benefits of mobilising and strengthening the wrists. When it comes to supporting body weight through the arms, the next important structure (after the hands and wrists) is the shoulder. Mobility and strength across the entire shoulder girdle is not only important for supporting body weight, but also for holding, lifting, reaching and climbing movements. In addition, functional shoulder mobility is also required for efficient locomotion.
At EVO, we believe that shoulder mobility and strength is one of the foundations for injury-free movement. While isolated movements may help in the short term, we advocate mobilising and strengthening the shoulders using whole body movements, where possible. This provides the body with context that reinforces the mobility and strength. With this in mind, we have chosen 5 of our favourite shoulder mobility exercises for you to incorporate into your gym workouts and home exercise program.
Before performing the movements below, spend a few minutes warming up the shoulders with the following exercises:
- Shoulder rolls – gently roll the shoulders forwards 20 times and backwards 20 times
- Arm circles – roll each arm forward 10 times, and backwards 10 times
Start in a full push up or box push up position. Keeping the fingers spread and arms straight, push the arms into the floor and imagine moving the shoulder blades apart. The chest will lift and the upper back will round slightly. Feel the abdominal muscles engaging. Perform the movement slowly, the return by allowing the chest to drop as you gently squeeze the shoulder blades together. Repeat the movement slowly and continuously 10 times
Using a high bar or gymnastics rings, hang so that your feet are just touching the ground. If the bar is too high, use a box/step underneath. Keeping arms straight, gently swing the body left to right, using the shoulders to steer the movement. Imagine the shoulders opening up slightly with each swing. Perform 20 swings (continuously or in smaller sets). As you get stronger, you can lift the feet off the floor.
Slow bunny hops
In a crouch position, plant the hands on the floor and perform a bunny hop. Focus on slowing down and controlling the hop as much as possible. Try to lift the body off the ground by opening up the shoulders (rather than kicking the legs up). As shoulder mobility and strength improves, you will be able to open up the shoulders to a full hand balance position. Perform 10 reps with control.
Assume a full plank position (push up). Keeping the body in a straight line, walk the hands and legs to the right, moving the left hand under the right hand as you do so. After a few steps, walk back towards the left, crossing the right hand underneath the left hand. Continue left to right for a total of 20 steps.
Assume a crab position, with arms straight, and hips close to hands. Gently squeeze the shoulder blades and take a few steps forwards. As you do so, try to keep the shoulders open. Repeat the movement backwards and continue back and forth for 20 steps. As you improve mobility, move the hips further away from the hands.
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