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How to improve your overhead mobility!

I’m wanting to work on my overhead mobility as I really struggle to keep position when I try to shoulder press

An easy compensation to see with overhead pressing is when the lower back compensates for the overhead mobility basically meaning your lower back arches excessively to be able to push the weight over your head as the shoulders lack the range of motion to do so.

Mobility issues that develop in the shoulder can result from several types of activity or inactivity. Some of the most common types of shoulder mobility issues are impingement, rotator cuff tears, and frozen shoulder. Instability and overuse of the joint cause many of these.

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body. It is made up of the humerus, scapula, and clavicle bones, with many ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the adjoining anatomy. Because of this stability should be one of the top priorities in your training.

Thoracic Spine Mobilisation

To perform a thoracic spine joint mobilization, lie on your back with your arms crossed in front of you. This will pull your shoulder blades (scapulae) “out” to the side. This will provide space to place the peanut. The tennis or lacrosse balls should rest on both sides of your spine. With your arms across your chest, perform a small crunch by raising your shoulders off the ground a few inches. Hold this position for a few seconds before returning to start position. Make sure not to hyper-extend your lower back during this movement. We want to only move from the mid-back.

Perform 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions on each segment of your mid-back that feels stiff (1). If you don’t feel any stiffness at a particular part of your spine during the movement, move the peanut up or down to another segment. It is normal to have restrictions in only a few of the thoracic spine joints. Make sure to not hold your breath and focus on long breathes in and out.

You should not have intense pain during this maneuver. If you do, I recommend seeking out a medical professional such as a physiotherapist

A few other exercises I’d recommend are:

  1. Wall Slides (10 reps)

  2. Internal and External Rotation either bodyweight or with a very light band. Keeping the elbow at 90 degrees (6-10 reps)

  3. Prone T’s, W’s and Y’s lifts- thumbs facing the ceiling (8-10 reps)

  4. Folded Leaf Stretch- pushing the chest down and arms overhead. 30 second hold

  5. Pec Stretch “Chest Opener” Arm in a 90 degree bend and pushing the chest forward and away from the wall. 30 seconds hold each side. This stretch has been shown in research to be one of the most efficient ways to elicit changes in pec minor muscle length. Be cautious not to push too hard with this stretch!!

  6. Theraband Pull aparts- (8-12 reps- pause when the band is on your chest. Palms facing up towards the ceiling)

  7. Scap Push ups on all fours. In a box position with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Keep the core active and squeeze the shoulder blades backwards and then push forwards without the elbows bending. (6-12 reps)

These exercises help with scapular movement and overall shoulder mobility. They will allow for movement and activation through the rotator cuff to help improve stabilizing the shoulder joint.

You can test the overhead movement before starting these exercises and then retest after a few weeks. These exercises shared today are not a “magic pill” for improving mobility. They will not fix any stiffness in one session. However, if you notice a small change in your movement quality with the “Test-Retest” method then you are on the right track to improving your overhead shoulder mobility and stability.

Happy Lifting and Mobilising!

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