By Katie Goss
Shoulder injuries most often come from long term wear and tear. It’s usually not the result of that *one* muscle-up you did or that *one* push press where you tweaked it. Having healthy shoulders takes a long term approach and includes more than simply working on flexibility. Shoulder mobility will impact your jerk, push jerk, strict press and any other overhead motion. This could be what is halting your progress if you are at a plateau.
Increasing your flexibility with help you achieve a better position in many cases but that’s not the whole answer.
Many will benefit from increasing their flexibility but the key with increasing flexibility is being able to maintain stability in your new-found range of motion.
Flexibility and stability are of equal importance. Working on mobility (flexibility plus strength to control it) is the goal! Having a range of motion that you cannot control can predispose you to injury just as much as not having enough range of motion and compensating for it can. Get to work on those rotator cuff muscles to increase the stability in your shoulder! We love end range of motion exercises for this.
So when it comes to shoulder mobility, what’s so bad about compensating?
You lose power when you have to compensate to achieve a movement and it slows down your workout. If you do not have the mobility in your shoulders you will compensate by over-arching your back (excessive anterior tilt), thrusting your ribs up, etc. Although compensating like this to achieve a movement may work in the short term, the compounding effect of repetitively doing this will take a toll on your body and an injury will become unavoidable. Think about longevity in your sport and analyze yourself critically.
The scapula help to transfer forces from the legs and core to the arms. Learning to control them and hold them in an optimal position will increase your performance. We see SO many people struggle with scapular position and stability. Look around at how many people have winging shoulder blades!
Take a look at this video for a better understanding of the issue. Notice the way he is rotating his armpits forward to slide the shoulder blade into optimal position.
What should your overhead position look like? Elbows should be locked out, but not hyperextended. You should be pressing upward forcefully as if you are trying to reach the ceiling. Your core should be braced and your ribs should not be thrusting. You should have a neutral pelvis. (No excessive arch or rounding of the lower back). The bar should be over the mid foot. Your head should go forward a bit but not as much as a pigeon. Most people already have a forward head posture due to so much electronic usage, so be cautious not to thrust your head too far forward. This will just contribute to more neck pain, shoulder tightness, etc.
Record yourself doing an overhead strict press from the side. Analyze your video for the above cues. Are you maintaining all of them? If not, focus on some mobility drills for the thoracic spine and shoulders. This may include stretches, rolling the area with a lacrosse ball or foam roller, massage, using vibration therapy, or mobility exercises. Here’s an exercise that will help with not only the neck but with your overhead mobility as well!
After you’ve spent a little time working on the mobility repeat the recording of yourself in the same position and compare it to the before video. Note any improvements and also areas that still need work. Understand that change takes time and although you may notice some immediate changes you will need to work on this consistently for some time to make substantial improvements. Body awareness is key! Time to improve your shoulder mobility.