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AtA: Dynamic Stretches for Shoulder Mobility

Posted July 14th, 2010 in Ask the Author and tagged , , , , , by Clint

What’s your favorite dynamic stretch to improve shoulder mobility? I’ve been doing your pull squats for my hamstrings the last few weeks and I can’t believe the improvement. I can nearly touch my toes with locked knees now, which is probably a 4 inch improvement in my range of motion. My shoulder mobility is absolutely terrible, though, and I’d like to improve it.

I’ve read about “shoulder dislocations,” where you hold a broom handle with both hands and a wide grip at your waist, and you bring it all the way over your head until you touch the small of your back. Do you have any experience with these exercises?

I want to preface by saying I am not a rehab specialist, and I should probably be embarrassed by how readily I will refer out a client or athlete if they are in need of corrective (ankle-taper) work. Knowing something about one field doesn’t confer expertise in all related fields, and this is something many ‘experts’ fail to realize. That said, I could offer you a few suggestions, but if you feel like you are in any way compromised due to injury or otherwise requiring rehabilitation, I encourage you to seek a specialist.

Another thing (which I am trying not to overstress) is that bodies are built differently, and what’s good for some may not help others. So I’m not just copping out; despite my best of intentions, there’s not a one-size-fits-all. We’re all built differently, and that includes the design and build of the shoulder (relevant to this discussion is, for example, the formation of the shoulder’s acromion). Just based on your genetic build (and what may have come later during development) you may have a significantly harder (or easier) time with one exercise over another due to the shape and construction of your shoulder. So even if you go it alone, you will need to experiment to find what is best for you.

Okay? Okay.

In the book I recommend windmills, where you stick your arms straight out to your sides and rotate them, just as in gym class. You can make these circles wide or tight as suits you, and it falls under the ‘dynamic’ sense of not reducing muscle elasticity or strength. These (as with the other things I recommend) do well by the most people. Give them a shot.

As far as dislocations, I myself do them on occasion, and I’ll recommend them from time to time as warm-ups for athletes, especially when we are doing sport-specific training. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest them to someone trying it solo since it is a difficult movement to judge the performance of unless you have someone watching you (or you have some 3-way model mirror going on). You can let your shoulder rise up on one or both sides or otherwise create oddities or imbalances in your effort to get it over the top, and that’s generally a no-no. You want to keep your traps flattened and rotators locked down rather than letting one (or both) rise up, and that can be difficult to do for many people. Alternately, you can do them with a band or a bungie cord so that you’re not forcing the joint, and focus on keeping your shoulders properly seated and aligned.

I’ve previously recommended a different type of broom stick stretch that may help you, both the internal and external.

I also dig scapula push-ups.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Danny Weston says:

    What’s an engineer bag? I see you saying to get one but I google it and I’m not really sure what to look for. Heeeelp!

  2. Clint says:

    It’s just a canvas bag or duffel bag with straps going all the way around it to help cradle and support the weight inside. You simply put heavy things inside and boom you have weight that you can lift as “resistance”.

    This contest has a picture of one. And there are pictures of them throughout Chapter 9 of the book.
    You can also check out the “engineer bag” tag for other posts for ideas. :)

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