Last week we shared some tips on how to improve your overhead squat, but we neglected to touch on one incredibly important aspect; shoulder flexibility.
Those of us with moderate to exceptional flexibility take it for granted and often forget that simply pushing a bar overhead can be a difficult feat.
Since we’re not in the business of giving half-assed advice, let’s touch on how to improve shoulder flexibility not just for your overhead squats, but for several other integral exercise movements.
Before we dive into the good stuff, tell me; have you ever been to the gym and seen someone hulk smashing their bench press with poor form? What about watching a newbie hop on the bar and do a series of kipping pull ups? Better yet, have you seen someone struggle in vain to get the bar over their head during a push press, strict or overhead movement?
Chances are you have. The problem is, poor bench, strict and push press form leads to strain on your shoulders surrounding muscles. It is also a rather large contributor to bad posture.
Don’t even get us started on the kipping. While CrossFit loves a good kipping pull up, the reality is this – if you can not do a strict pull up, you should definitely not attempt kipping. Though kipping makes the general movement feel easier, you place an incredible amount of tension on your shoulders as you swing into the downward position. This of course, leads to issues.
It’s fairly safe to say that shoulder problems are fairly common among weightlifters. Whether self induced or accidental, there are a 4 exercises you can incorporate into your daily workout to help you avoid injury and improve your flexibility at the same time.
Note: To complete these movements you will need a light weight resistance band. We suggest either the red or black WOD Nation resistance band. (Get your very own here!)
1. Overhead Pull Aparts
Start by grabbing a light weight resistance band. Grip it with your hands shoulder width apart. Raise your arms overhead. From there, pull your arms apart and down, keeping your arms locked out so that the end movement brings your arms parallel with the ground.
Return to the overhead position and repeat at least 15 times.
2. Pull Aparts
Using a lighter weight resistance band, grab it about shoulder width a part. Holding it out in front of your chest with extended arms, pull the band apart as far as you can. Repeat this movement 15 times.
3. Sagital Shoulder Adduction
This movement is similar to the pull aparts, but rather than placing the band in front of you, place it lengthwise across your back. From there, keep your shoulder chest open, arms locked and extended on either side of your body, then pull the band in front of your chest. Repeat 15 times.
4. Pass Throughs
Start by holding your resistance band with a wide locked out arm stance in front of your hips, similar to the starting grip if you were preparing to doing a snatch.
Keeping your elbows locked out, and raise the band overhead. The goal is to fully extend your arms behind your back keeping them straight. Repeat this movement in sets of 15 to get a nice shoulder burn.
Now, it’s important to note that in the beginning the initial pass through may be quite difficult. The wider the arms, the easier it will be. As you progress, bring your hands closer and closer.
Need help visualizing any of these movements? Check out Coach Barry’s video training here!
One thing you will want to keep in mind with all of these movements is that they are not necessarily strength oriented. The point is to get your shoulders working and improve your range of motion so you can have the mobility you need to perform exercises like overhead squats, snatch, or any press movement.
If you commit to doing at least one set of each movement with 15 reps, you should start noticing that movements that used to be difficult become easier.
Do you suffer from shoulder pain or immobility? Try these exercises or share your go-to movements in the comment section below!
March is the founder of the Barbell Beauties. Her goal is simple… Empower every woman to grab a barbell and LIFT. She’s been an active CrossFitter for 7 years and credits that sport for turning her into a true athlete.