Most people will have some type of shoulder pain. Whether it be a one time shoulder “twinge” that has come and gone or something that we are continuing to try and improve and help feel better, most of us have had something like this.
Shoulder pain can limit many things from day to day activities to activities in the gym such as bench pressing, overhead pressing, squatting, etc.
Even though you may have pain with certain movements at the gym, you are injured, but you are not dead!
Now, I am not telling you to push through shoulder pain or other types of joint pain. But, you need to find ways when you are hurt or injured, to be able to continue to train pain-free so that you can continue to make improvements as a whole. Not only will this improve issues elsewhere, but it will make you feel that you are still able to do something at the gym.
*Disclaimer*: If you are trying these options and still dealing with shoulder pain, seek out a licensed medical practitioner for a full evaluation.
1. Adjust Your Pull/Push Ratio
Anytime an athlete or client is dealing with shoulder pain, we typically like to adjust their push-pull ratio. Ideally, 2:1 Pull/Push ratio is a good place to start. If someone is dealing with shoulder pain, I recommend going to a 3:1 ratio.
Pushing movements are usually emphasized more in the gym setting vs pulling. This can affect the shoulder as well as other joints. By adjusting the pull/push ratio, this can help alleviate some symptoms.
Here is an example:
If you do 3 sets x 6 reps of push-ups (pushing), you would want to do 3 different exercises of some other pulling variation such as:
Horizontal Rows (1 or 2-arm variations)
Vertical Pulling (Pull-ups, 1-arm pull-downs), etc.
By adjusting the pull/push ratio, this can help to decrease pain at the shoulder as well as improve muscular imbalances throughout the upper body.
2. Incorporate Limited Ranges of Motion
A way to train “around” shoulder pain is by shortening the ranges of motion in which you are lifting. Instead of performing a full-range barbell or dumbbell bench press, shorten the range of motion.
Variations can include:
Barbell Floor Press
Dumbbell Floor Press
Most injuries occur at end range or the end position of a joint’s range of motion. By limiting the range of motion of an exercise, you can decrease the strain on the joint, etc. and still get a training effect.
3. Closed Chain vs Open Chain
When we think of pushing movements, we think of bench press, etc. Push-ups, etc. are also considered a pushing movement. The only difference between the two is that one is closed chain (push-up) and the other is open chain (bench press).
I’m sure there is research out there, but anecdotally, I have found that people have improvement in shoulder symptoms when they perform closed chain movements as compared to open chain movements.
One potential reason behind this is the increased recruitment of the upward scapular rotator muscles (serratus anterior, lower trapezius, etc.). Also, in an closed chain exercise, the scapula is allowed to move. Allowing the scapula to move allows for fluid movement and can minimize the chance that the humerus and the scapula run into each other.
Push-ups are often seen as “too easy.” For those who have trouble doing them from the floor, try performing them elevated.
For those who do find them too easy, there are a multitude of ways to load them such as:
Band Resisted Push-Ups
The benefit of Band Resisted and Chains for push-ups is that it provides accommodating resistance. What that means is that the resistance is not constant throughout the motion. As you progress into the hardest portion of the movement, the resistance becomes the least challenging. Then as you progress through easier parts of the movement, the resistance increases.
4. Switch Out the Barbell
Instead of trying to push through shoulder pain and continuing to press with a barbell, try using dumbbells or kettlebells.
Using different implements can change the shoulder position. Dumbbells and kettlebells allow for more degrees of freedom unlike the barbell which locks you into an internally rotated position at the shoulder. With dumbbells and kettlebells, the shoulder is allowed to move and in turn can decrease stress/strain at the shoulder.
Variations can include:
Kettlebell Bottoms Up Incline Press
Dumbbell Bench Press
Or use kettlebells in place of dumbbells during the bench press.
5. Incorporate Slow Eccentrics/Pauses
Another option you can try is incorporating slow eccentrics or pauses into your training. When there is pain in the body, it doesn’t always mean there is structural damage or inflammation. If the Central Nervous System (CNS) perceives that there is a threat to the body, it can create pain to force the body to stop/mitigate that threat.
In the case of the shoulder and bench pressing, if someone can’t control the bench press properly, the body can create pain due to the threat of not being able to control the movement.
With that being said, incorporating slow eccentrics or pauses into training can potentially help.
Slow Eccentric Push-Ups
Slow Eccentric 1-Arm DB Bench
Bench Press with Pause
By incorporating slow eccentrics and/or pauses, it can help train you and your body to control the movement to not only decrease pain aspects of the movement, but also to increase strength as well.
If you are dealing with shoulder pain, you are injured, not dead. There are ways to continue to train when dealing with aches and pains. Try:
-Adjusting your Pull/Push Ratio
-Limiting Ranges of Motion
-Closed Chain Movements
-Using dumbbells or kettlebells
Push-ups are a movement that can be done relatively anywhere. It can be performed with body-weight, resistance, or regressed for beginners. One common complaint with push-ups is wrist pain.
With a push-up, the wrist is put into a extended/hyper-extended position.
This can be a difficult position to tolerate for some people. Whether it be from a previous injury or not utilizing that mobility throughout their daily lives, loaded end-range wrist extension can be uncomfortable and even painful.
Here are 3 tips help improve wrist pain with push-ups!
1. Improve Your Wrist Mobility
If the wrist doesn’t have adequate extension, then when loaded, it can create issues at the wrist and higher up the kinetic chain.
If getting into or attempting to get into end-range wrist extension is bothersome, try performing self-myofascial release (SMR) to the muscles of your forearm.
After performing SMR, check and see if your wrist mobility for the push-up feels better. If not, try some joint mobility drills. Mobility drills such as:
Mobilization with Movement Wrist Extension
-Place one hand on top of the other as shown. Use the web space of your hand and bring it right up against the back of your wrist.
-Maintain the pressure of your hand on your wrist.
-Move your body over your hand moving your wrist into extension.
-Pressure should be felt in the wrist. If there is increased pain, stop.
Sometimes, people will experience improvement with the opposite to compression as shown before. A wrist distraction mobilization can help.
Wrist Distraction with Mobilization
-Stabilize one hand with the other.
-Gently use body to pull arm away from the floor and move into wrist extension.
-A slight stretching sensation should be felt in wrist.
-If it becomes painful, stop.
Wrist extension mobility is often limited in people who weight train due to the constant gripping of dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, etc. A good mobility drill to do is the Quadruped Wrist Extension Rockback.
-Stretch should be felt in the forearms.
-If a pinch or pain is felt in the wrist and doesn't subside with increased reps, stop.
2. Change Your Hand Position
If you still want to train the push-up and your wrist is still bothering you, try changing the position of your hands. Either doing knuckle push-ups or using dumbbells can place the wrist in a more neutral position to decrease the demands for end-range wrist extension.
3. It’s Not Your Wrist
If you have pain in a joint, the root cause may not be stemming from that specific joint itself. In the case of the wrist, there could be mobility or stability limitations higher up the kinetic chain at the elbow, shoulder, neck, or thoracic spine.
For the brevity of this post, motor control or stability issues at the shoulder specifically, can drive issues at the wrist.
Try performing your push-ups with a resistance band around your wrists. By adding a band around the wrists, it can increase rotator cuff and scapulo-thoracic stability and in turn improve wrist stability.
-The resistance band is attempting to pull your arms together. Actively think of "pulling out against the band."
Also, make sure you have adequate shoulder mobility and thoracic spine mobility prior to performing push-ups. Quick tests for adequate shoulder/thoracic spine mobility and stability are:
-3rd digit to opposite inferior angle of scapula.
-3rd digit to opposite superior angle of scapula.
Even though you aren’t going into end range shoulder or thoracic spine mobility, limitations here can send a signal to your nervous system and can affect elsewhere throughout the kinetic chain.
Try performing self-myofascial release, self-joint mobilizations if needed, changing your hand/wrist position, or using a band around your wrists.
With all that being said, if you are having wrist pain that won’t go away with any of these tips, find a licensed healthcare practitioner to be evaluated.
The Plank, also known as the prone bridge to some, is a basic core strengthening movement. Walk into any gym or fitness facility and you will see someone performing this movement or a variation thereof.
The plank can be a great movement to work on core strengthening. As with any movement, the plank can become too easy for some people. Many times, clients or athletes will just hold the plank longer and longer to try and make the position more challenging. Eventually, at some point, their technique falters and the benefits of the exercise diminishes.
Instead of just holding the plank longer and longer, here are some ways to make the plank harder without having to hold it longer.
Ways to Make Progress Planks
1. Stop Holding Your Breath
When clients or athletes are trying to attain maximal core tension, they will have a tendency to hold their breath. In movements such as deadlifting, squatting, etc., using the breath and maintaining it are vital for maximal core tension to help buttress the spine against shear forces.
But, when performing a movement such as a plank, holding your breath can be working against you by making the movement easier. By holding your breath, you are using intra-abdominal pressure to maintain a neutral spine instead of using the musculature of your core to do the job.
Instead of holding your breath, try breathing when you are performing a plank. This will make the exercise that much more challenging.
-Maintain a neutral spine.
-Take a deep belly breath and breath 360 degrees into your stomach, back, and sides of your body.
-As you breath out, the exercise will become harder. Make sure to maintain your neutral spine position.
Attempt to perform for 3-4 breaths and then take a break. You can perform for multiple reps and sets.
2. Change Your Base of Support
Another way to make a plank more challenging is by altering your base of support. This can be accomplished by taking away a point of contact with your arm and/or leg.
By taking away one of the 4 points of contact in a plank, it will decrease the amount of control over the position and in turn, make it more challenging. It would be similar to taking away one of the legs of a table.
3. Incorporate Movement
When performing a plank, we want the lumbar spine to be in a position where it doesn’t move. This doesn’t mean other aspects of the body or spine can’t move. When performing a plank, try incorporating some type of movement into the exercise to increase the difficulty.
4. Make Your Body Longer
Besides resorting to medieval torture devices to attempt to make your body longer, to create a longer lever arm, and in turn make a plank more challenging, you can try this:
The bodysaw can also be used with a foam roller, TRX suspension trainer, slideboard, etc.
If you are performing planks while working out or training and they are just becoming too easy, try breathing, changing your base of support, incorporating movement, and/or using a bodysaw variation to make them more challenging.
Push-ups are a basic movement that can help to build strength, power, and help to reduce one’s risk for injury. Throughout the fitness and rehab professions, the 1-arm push-up is a true measure of core stability, core strength, as well as upper body strength. For someone to perform a 1-arm push-up is an impressive feat.
For most athletes and clients, the 1-arm push-up is a very challenging maneuver and some may never attain the ability to perform one.
Here are 3 Quick Tips to Get Your First 1-Arm Push-Up!
1. Perform Them Elevated
If you can’t perform a 1-arm push-up on the floor, make the movement easier by elevating the surface on which you put your hands.
For example, you can perform a 1-arm pushup elevated on the crash bars in a squat rack, on a barbell in a squat rack, or on a bench.
This can be a great way to challenge someone who may not be able to perform one on the floor. By training in this fashion, it allows the athlete to perform multiple sets and reps and broaden their training base.
Once you can perform multiple sets and reps at a specific height, lower the level you are at until you are at the floor.
2. Slow Eccentrics
Another option if someone cannot perform a 1-arm push-up from the floor is by performing only the eccentric portion of the 1-arm push-up.
By performing it in this fashion, it allows the athlete to have to focus on maximal total body tension and control of the movement on the way down. By improving eccentric control, this can carry over to concentric control, which is needed to bring oneself back up from the ground.
Make sure to maintain good technique with a neutral spine and allow the scapulae to move on the way down towards the ground.
3. Anti-Extension Rotation Core Work
Working on improving core strength and stability is not a typical area most people think of when trying to improve upper body strength, specifically 1-arm push-up strength. But, a common area with a 2 and 1-arm push-up is that core stability can be a major limiting factor in being able to adequately perform the movement. If you or an athlete or client is having difficulty with improving their 1-arm push-up strength, first assess their core stability.
A great test, developed by Functional Movement Systems, is the Trunk Stability Push-Up.
Some people think that this test is just an assessment of upper body strength. The main point of this assessment is to see if the athlete or client can maintain a neutral spine position when going from the starting position to the ending position.
If someone is arching through their low back or their upper body rises before their hips/lower body, then they may potentially need to improve their core stability.
Implementing movements into an athlete’s training program such as:
TRX Anti-Rotation Press
Split Stance Anti-Rotation/Extension Press
Stability Ball Rollouts
Farmer’s or Suitcase Carries
½ Kneeling Chops
½ Kneeling Lifts
These various movements can help improve an athlete’s core stability/strength in order to create adequate force transmission throughout the entire body during a 1-arm push-up.
If you or your athletes or clients want to do their first 1-arm push-up, try adding these options into their program.
The “Bird Dog” is a movement that is used in the rehab and performance settings as a “corrective exercise”, during a dynamic warm-up, or as a filler exercise in a superset. It is a core stability exercise that focuses on the timing, muscle coordination, and motor control for the upper body, lower body, and trunk.
Many individuals may struggle with this movement due to mobility limitations or stability/motor control deficits. But, there are individuals that can possess good movement literacy and may need to progress the bird dog to a point where it is challenging for THEM, but they can still maintain good movement quality.
Before we go into the progressions, a key point to remember is that this isn’t a type of movement where we are trying to progressively overload it. Like with strength training, progressive overload is key to making improvements. Eventually, the bird dog could be a movement where it can be challenging, but should not be progressed to the point of adding heavy weight and/or heavy resistance such as with strength training.
The main purpose of the bird dog movement is to work on control, timing, and muscle sequencing. The body needs both core strength AND core stability.
For an article about core strength AND stability, check out my guest post on Tony Gentilcore’s site:
You Don’t Need Core Stability or Core Strength
Progressions for the Bird Dog
A simple but effective way to progress a movement is by adding a breath in at the most difficult point in the movement. With the bird dog, add a diaphragmatic breath in when the arm and leg are fully extended.
-Make sure to maintain a neutral spine.
-When you reach hip extended/shoulder flexed, take a deep belly breath while maintaining good technique.
2. Time Under Tension
Now, time under tension is typically reserved for strength training, but with any motor control exercise such as the bird dog, you can hold the movement for a period of time. For instance, with the bird dog, you can hold the end position for a 3-5 sec hold.
-Don’t try to get to the point where your body is shaking due to the difficulty.
-Add a short amount of time in for the holds and alternate each side.
3. Narrow Base
Another way to challenge yourself with the bird dog is by narrowing your base of support. A narrow base of support with any core stability or strength movement will immediately challenge yourself.
You can start with your hands and knees shoulder and hip width apart. If this is too easy, bring your hands 1-inch closer together as well as 1-inch closer together for your knees. If this is too easy and you can maintain good technique, go closer. The closest you will be able to go is hands touching and knees touching. Again, make sure technique is on point with this progression.
With this next potential progression, the resistance can sometimes make the movement more challenging. On the other hand, it can make the movement easier because it is causing the body’s neuromuscular system to reflexively contract due to the implementation of resistance.
Resistance can be added for both arms/legs or just with legs or arms.
-Pick a resistance that will allow you to perform the full movement without compromising technique.
5. Move Outside of Your Base of Support
Like we said with narrowing your base of support, you can also move your arm and leg outside of your base of support. By doing this, it will add another form of difficulty. As we have said before, form is of the utmost importance here.
-Maintain a neutral spine.
-Only go as far with your arm/leg as you can while maintaining proper technique.
6. Decreased Points of Contact
This last progression seems easy to perform, but it is harder than it looks. Another way to make the bird dog movement more challenging is by decreasing your body’s contact with the ground.
With the typical bird dog, there are six points of contact. Your hands, knees, and feet when at rest. During the movement, the points of support decrease to 3 (hand, knee, and foot.)
Another way to challenge this is to take away a point of support. You can remove the foot from this movement.
Or you can remove the knee and go into the starting position of a crawl.
There you have it! The bird dog is a great core stability movement that can challenge an individual with motor control, coordination, and stability. If you have an athlete or client that is not challenged by the bird dog, try implementing one of these progressions.
The Pigeon Stretch is a mobility stretch that is performed throughout Crossfit boxes and gyms. The main goal of this drill is to improve hip mobility. It can be a very effective mobility drill if it is performed correctly and is “felt” in the proper areas.
A typical Pigeon Stretch looks like so:
Photo credit: https://dutchsmilingyogi.com/rajakapotasana-pigeon-pose/
Ideally, the stretch someone should feel when performing this movement is in the back of the hip, towards the glutes.
There are athletes and clients that do not feel it in this area. Sometimes, people will feel nothing at all. Other times, people will feel a “tightness” in the front of the hip or in the hip joint itself. With this particular movement, someone should not feel a “stretch” in the front of the hip since this tissue is on slack.
Typically, the reason why someone may feel the pigeon stretch in the front of their hip is because of their bony anatomy at their hip. Most people have two hip joints. But, between people and between right and left sides, the bony anatomy can vary. One hip joint may be more shallow compared to another. There may be more bony overgrowth one side compared to another.
photo credit: themovementfix.com
If someone is trying to force their hip into the pigeon pose, they may be feeling bony compression of the acetabulum onto their femoral neck. Ideally, someone should not feel the pigeon stretch in the front of their hip. There can also be bony changes that have occurred over time, such as cam and/or pincer lesions that could be altering the joint position and where the person feels the stretch.
Photo credit: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00572
Instead, there are various hip mobility drills that someone can perform to make sure they are feeling it in the correct areas.
Mobility drills such as:
Quadruped Hip ER Mobilization
Seated 90/90 Hip ER/IR
Seated 90/90 Hip ER/IR w/ Kettlebell
If you are not feeling the “Pigeon Stretch” in the back of your hip, in your glute, where you are supposed to feel it, make some modifications to your mobility program to feel it in the correct areas.
The Front Squat is a great movement. It may not be considered a powerlifting movement such as the back squat, but the front squat is a respectable measure of strength for any athlete or general population client. It is also a great movement for those who may have mobility limitations at the shoulder or core stability issues that may limit the depth on a back squat, but clean up during a front squat.
There are a few areas of the body that need to be firing on all cylinders when it comes to the front squat to make sure proper form is present.
These 4 areas are:
As with any squatting movement, the ankle is an integral part of the entire squat pattern. If an ankle lacks mobility on one or both sides, then this can significantly impact the foot, knee, hip, etc. and can place an athlete at risk to compensate or increase their risk for injury.
To determine if an athlete has adequate ankle mobility, use the Knee to Wall Test:
Ideally, 4 inches away from the wall, or 40 degrees is an adequate amount of ankle dorsiflexion needed for the squat.
If there is NOT adequate dorsiflexion present, check out my guest post on Dr. John Rusin’s site,
10 Exercises to Instantly Improve Ankle Mobility
on how to improve ankle mobility. If you have a structural change that limits your dorsiflexion or you wish to front squat while continuing to work on your ankle mobility limitations, wearing Olympic lifting shoes can be a short term fix.
The thoracic spine is another area of the body that needs adequate mobility in order to properly perform a front squat. If someone lacks sufficient thoracic spine extension mobility, it will be challenging for them to maintain an upright posture as the descend into the hole and attempt to return to standing.
A great thoracic spine mobility test is the Quadruped Passive Thoracic Rotation Test:
Ideally, we like to see 50 degrees both directions. If there is less than 50 degrees when tested passively, the mobility drills listed below can help improve thoracic spine mobility.
A-Frame Thoracic Spine Mobilization
Sidelying Rib Roll
Bench T-Spine Mobilizations
There are other various thoracic spine mobility drills, but those are some of my favorite “go-to” drills to improve mobility there.
If you are performing front squats with an Olympic lifting grip:
Photo credit: breakingmuscle.com
then a quick and easy test to determine if you have adequate elbow flexion is if you can touch your thumb to the front of your shoulder with your elbow at shoulder height.
As you notice in this picture, I am able to touch my thumb to the front of my shoulder in the racked position. If there are limitations in elbow flexion due to the tricep, specifically the long head of the tricep, individuals will not be able to touch their thumb to their shoulder with their elbow at shoulder height. Make sure to assess how it is shown in the picture.
If limited, try performing self-myofascial release (SMR) to the tricep with a lacrosse ball, foam roller, etc.
Wrist extension is also important if performing a front squat with an Olympic style grip. Being able to display sufficient wrist extension will allow for the bar to be able to rest in the hand and on the front of the shoulders.
If there is insufficient wrist extension or elbow flexion as mentioned in the previous section, this can cause compensations throughout the kinetic chain and place the athlete or client at an increased risk for injury.
To determine if there is sufficient wrist extension, use your other hand to gently extend your wrist back to see if the hand can reach the front of the shoulder.
If you can comfortably reach your shoulder on both sides as shown in the picture, then you present with adequate wrist extension for front squatting.
If there are limitations in wrist mobility, try performing some of these techniques to help improve wrist mobility:
If you are still having difficulty improving mobility at the elbow or wrist, try switching to a "Crossed Arm" Front Squat as shown in the video earlier in the article.
If you want to front squat with an Olympic style grip, make sure to optimize mobility at your ankle, thoracic spine, wrist, and elbow.
Foam rolling or “Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)” can help improve mobility, muscle activation, etc. When incorporated correctly, it can be an integral part of any dynamic mobility warm-up.
Far too often, athletes will perform SMR too quickly, for too long of a period of time, or with poor technique, and this can decrease the effectiveness of any type of SMR work.
Here a some quick tips to improve the effectiveness of your SMR work:
1. Maintain Good Technique
One common fault that is seen is when clients or athletes place their bodies in positions that decrease the effectiveness of their foam rolling.
One common example of this is when people perform foam rolling on their quads:
As seen in the top picture, the athlete is up on their hands with an arched back position. Not only does this decrease the effectiveness of the SMR work, but if someone is dealing with extension based low back pain, it could potentially make their symptoms worse. It can also perpetuate any type of movement dysfunctions that may be present.
By maintaining a neutral spine position as shown in the second picture, this will improve proximal core stability in an effort to improve distal quad mobility.
2. Incorporate Active Range of Motion
When performing SMR work, most people will go through the motions of moving up and down a desired muscle group and then move onto the next area.
SMR Without Active Motion
Instead, try incorporating active range of motion into your SMR work:
Active motion can be incorporated with any movement. By using active motion, it allows for “reciprocal inhibition” of the muscle you are performing SMR to. In other words, it helps to down-regulate the muscle you are working on or improve its ability to relax. By doing this, it improves the quality of your SMR work.
Also, by incorporating active motion into your SMR work, you are teaching your nervous system how to stabilize and be able to control the “new mobility.” When not incorporating active motion, the body has a difficult time understanding how to control this “new mobility” and will have a tendency to create “tightness” in adjacent musculature as a compensation pattern to attain stability and control.
3. Performing SMR for Too Long
SMR work should be performed with the goal to help prime the nervous system for good, quality, movement. Foam rolling should not be performed for long periods of time. Scar tissue is not being broken up. The jury is still out on what SMR actually does, but if there are improvements in mobility in a short period of time, neuro-modulation of tone is likely what is occurring.
If there are particular problem areas or areas that are prone to being “tight”, then spending up to 60 seconds is fine. For other non-problematic areas, 15-20 seconds at most will suffice. Remember, you are going to the gym to train and improve your physical fitness. Spending more than 10-12 minutes warming-up is taking away time from getting stronger and more fit.
4. Performing SMR Too Quickly
On the flip side, performing SMR work too quickly is also decreasing the effectiveness of the warm-up. When you are foam rolling, if you look like you are trying to start a campfire with the foam roller and your body, then you are performing SMR too fast.
Perform the movements under control.
There are 4 Quick Tips to Improve Your Self-Myofascial Release/Foam Rolling work. Give those a try to help!
Stretching and mobility work has its place. Some professionals believe it does nothing while others swear by it. Like most things, it depends whether or not an athlete or client needs mobility work. One drill that is common in athletes and gym goers programs is the hip flexor stretch.
Most often, it is performed like so:
Most people feel a stretch throughout the front of their hip, into their thigh, and occasionally throughout the low back.
The problem with performing a hip flexor stretch like so is that this places increased stress on structures in the hip joint itself, specifically the hip capsule/ligaments, bone, etc. Also, it is not as specific of a drill because it is not placing a sufficient stretch on the anterior hip musculature, specifically iliacus and psoas.
Clients and athletes will occasionally feel this stretch in their low back because this specific position places clients into an anterior pelvic tilt and increases the amount of lumbar spine extension. Again, another area where we don’t want to feel the stretch.
So, instead of cranking on the front of your hip and trying to feel a “strong” hip flexor stretch, what should you do?
Start in the typical hip flexor stretch position. Make sure your ear, shoulder, hip, and knee on the down leg are all stacked on top of each other.
Take both hands and press down into the leg that is in front of you. By doing this, it helps to activate your anterior core musculature and place you in a more neutral alignment.
Then, squeeze the trail leg gluteus maximus, which will also enhance posterior pelvic tilt, decreasing anterior pelvic tilt and placing more emphasis on the hip flexor musculature.
When performed like so, an adequate hip flexor stretch is felt without ever having to move the body forward.
So, if you or your athletes or clients are performing hip flexor mobility drills or stretches, try implementing this quick tip into their programming to make their mobility drills more effective.
Doing mobility drills is all the rage right now. There are people all over stretching, foam rolling, etc. There is definitely a time and a place for these types of modalities. They can all provide benefit when they are implemented correctly.
The shoulder is a common area that lacks mobility. Whether it be from repetitive overuse with activities in the gym or through sport or lack of activity, immobility can strike any person.
Far too often, individuals think that cranking their shoulder and arm in all different directions will help them improve their mobility.
This is not only ineffective, but can place increased stress on structures such as:
When performing any type of movement, whether it be mobility, motor control, or strength training, we want to be as effective as possible to get the most bang for our buck with our exercises.
First off, we need to assess if we have a true mobility limitation.
Try these movements to see:
-Arms should be able to reach table.
-Low back should be flat to table.
-Reach down and behind your back.
-Should be able to reach inferior angle of opposite scapulae
-May not be able to fully perform for overhead athletes.
-Reach up and behind your head.
-Should be able to reach superior angle of opposite scapulae.
-May not be able to fully perform for overhead athletes.
These are 3 quick and easy tests to determine if you have adequate shoulder mobility. As mentioned above, if you play an overhead sport ie. baseball, volleyball, swimming, etc., you may have bony changes that may contribute to limited ranges of motion.
If there are limitations in mobility, here are the top 4 mobility drills you can perform to help improve your shoulder mobility.
1. Standing Latissimus Dorsi Stretch
This stretch targets the latissimus dorsi. This is a common muscle that limits overhead motion. Limited mobility in this muscle can affect the shoulder, neck, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, etc. It can directly affect any type of overhead movements for sport or for lifting as well as impact function below the shoulder as well with effects on shoulder external rotation.
Key points with the Latissimus Dorsi stretch:
-Grab a stable object with the arm you are looking to stretch.
-Fixate the scapulae to the rib cage with the opposite hand.
-Gently lean backwards until you feel a gentle stretch in your lats.
Far too often, people will attempt to stretch their lats like so:
The problem with this type of movement is that is places a significant traction force throughout the shoulder and not only stretches the latissimus dorsi, but can place increased stress on the rotator cuff, labrum, etc. Areas we don’t want to stress with mobility drills. The question can be raised that the effectiveness at improving mobility to the latissimus dorsi is limited as well.
2. Standing Posterior Rotator Cuff Stretch
This stretch can be used to target the posterior rotator cuff musculature, specifically infraspinatus, teres major and minor. This is commonly used and seen with overhead athletes as well as in the weight training community.
The only major difference with the movement showed above is that more often than not, the scapulae is not fixated. As with the standing latissimus dorsi stretch, we want to make sure the scapulae is fixated to the rib cage to provide the most effective stretch.
In the video above, make sure to fixate the scapulae to the rib cage by pinning it using a door jam, corner of a squat rack/rig, or some other immobile object. Not fixating the scapulae can place unwanted stress elsewhere.
3. Pectoralis Minor Stretch
The pectoralis minor is another muscle that can greatly impact health and function at the shoulder. Due to its attachments at the rib cage and the coracoid process on the scapulae, it can anteriorly tilt the scapulae affecting the neck, shoulder, and thoracic spine.
A quick and easy static or dynamic stretch you can do is the Supine Pectoralis Minor Stretch:
You can also implement sliding of the arms up and down as shown in this Seated Wall Slide:
The benefit of being on your back is that gravity is placing a gentle stretch on the pec minor and incorporating active motion of the upper extremities helps with reciprocal inhibition of the pec minor due to activation of the posterior shoulder musculature.
4. Bench Thoracic Spine Mobilization
-Maintain a neutral spine/ribs down position.
-Sit hips back towards heels.
-Flex elbows and bring dowel towards you.
This last “shoulder” stretch can be used to help improve thoracic spine mobility, which is also important for shoulder function.
By placing the elbows on the bench and sitting backwards, you are placing a stretch on the latissimus dorsi. Then, through elbow flexion, the long head of the triceps will also have a stretch placed through it as well.
The long head of the triceps can also act to limit overhead shoulder flexion as well.
If you have limited overhead shoulder mobility, be sure to give the
Standing Latissimus Dorsi
Posterior Rotator Cuff
Supine Pec Minor
Bench Thoracic Spine Mobilizations
a try to help improve your overhead shoulder mobility.
Here I will be writing and posting about topics ranging from physical therapy, injury prevention/reduction, and strength and conditioning.