Three Drills for Improved Shoulder Mobility

The shoulder is (or should be) the most mobile joint in your body. It's comprised of a complex system of big muscles (including the lats and pec major), smaller muscles (like the subscapularisinfraspinatus and deltoids), bones (humerus, clavicle and scapula) and loads of ligaments, tendons, fascia and other connective material. It's a highway for many important nerves (such as the Brachial Plexus), arteries and veins. The shoulder is awesome. And odds are if you work at a desk and have a mobile device you treat your shoulders like crap.

Here's a quick simplification of what commonly happens. We sit, text and slouch over a keyboard for hours out of the day. Our pecs and lats get tight pulling our shoulders forward compressing our ribs and lungs. The muscles that pull our shoulders and thoracic spine back are lengthened and become deactivated and weak. Eventually we get this Quasimodo look called kyphosis, shoulder impingements or thoracic outlet syndrome. Before we know it we can't breath properly, wash our hair or bench press without pain.   

For more about how the modern work environment and technology are negatively affecting our joints and health, check out this postthis post and this post. I've included below three basic shoulder mobility drills that have become favorites in my gym. These have helped many of my clients improve shoulder mobility thereby improving their posture, performance and health.

Note, I am not a doctor or physical therapist. If these drills cause you any pain stop immediately and consult a medical professional. If you think you may have joint or muscle dysfunction I highly suggest you consult a physical therapist or chiropractor. I personally recommend SF Custom Chiropractic and SF Sport and Spine. And be sure and check out this post about hip mobility. 

Lat and Pec Minor SMR

Lay on the floor with a foam roller under your arm pit with your arm extended overhead if possible or at a 90 degree angle. Gently rock back and forth for several passes getting the anterior and posterior fibers of the lat and the pec attachments. After several passes move the roller an inch or two down your rib cage and repeat continuing to rock front to back. Don't over due it with the pressure as this can be a sensitive area. Keep the intensity at 5-6/10. Continue moving the roller down the ribs. Stop once you one longer feel ribs. Do not roll the area below your ribs. Aim for 1-2m on each side to start. 

Pec Major and Pec Minor SMR

Using a medicine ball or trigger point tool GENTLY place the ball on the upper part of the pec/chest to the side of the sternum (ALWAYS AVOID DIRECT PRESSURE ON THE STERNUM AND RIBS). Using your body weight as pressure gently move the ball along the pec muscle from the medial to the lateral borders slowly increasing pressure as needed to release the fascia. Aim for 1-2m on each side to start.

PVC Pipe Overheads

Stand up straight and engage your glutes and core to ensure a neutral pelvis. Do not arch your back or stick your ribs out. Grasp a PVC pipe or a yoga strap as wide as needed and keeping your elbows straight pass it back and forth slowly overhead taking your shoulders through external and internal rotation while gently stretching your pecs and lats. DO NOT PUSH/FORCE IT. Go as wide as needed. Keep your chin tucked and shoulders depressed. If you experience pain or feel bone on bone/restriction stop right away and consult a health professional. Aim for 12-15 passes to start.