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Best shoulder stretches for training and life!

The shoulder is a shallow ball and socket joint, with immense potential for range of motion. Meaning we can climb, throw and perform tasks important to our survival as hunter gathers.

However, now that life no longer involves hunting or gathering, most, if not all human activity occurs right in front of our faces. It makes sense then, that our shoulders would adapt to the position/s it spends most time in. As a result, our bodies subdue to gravity and tend to acquire a rounded and stiff forward position, otherwise known as a ‘desk bound’ posture.

I have worked with countless clients suffering with some kind of shoulder pain when training in the gym or day to day. While the pain may be due to several factors, most of the reasons arise from poor shoulder mobility while lifting weights and stressing structures that are unaccustomed to the ranges and loads applied to them.

In this article I will show you my go to shoulder stretches; to not only prime the shoulders before a workout, but to reduce the postural effects of long-term desk life.

Before we delve in, it’s important to understand the main components that make up the shoulder girdle- the upper back (thoracic spine), shoulder blade and the shoulder joint itself. All three work together to achieve optimum movement during all of your upper body lifts.

Desk Fly

This can and should be done as frequently as possible during your work day. At your desk (or any seated position) and during your warm up. It is seated to restrict the lower back from taking up range during the movement.

- Start with fingers interlinked behind the head, slumped with elbows touching each other in front of the face.

- Look up towards the sky, driving the chest high and the elbows back to the wall behind you as far as you can.

- Perform 10 reps for a 2-3 sets.

Prone Shoulder CAR

Slightly trickier movement which anyone would find difficult after a few reps. Focus on breathe and tension through your mid back and shoulders.

- Starting lying face down on the floor with arms out long in front of you.

- Squeezing your glutes, create as much space between your palms and the ground as possible.

- Blend the arms and bring your thumbs to your armpits, then down to pockets, then to the ceiling. Go back the way you came, which is one rep.

- Perform 6 reps for 3 sets.

Dowel Bench Extensions

Can be done in the gym, home or work. Just find a surface the same height as your knee cap when standing.

- Start by gripping a dowel, or broomstick type object with an underhand grip- hands shoulder width apart.

- Kneel over a bench with elbows resting on the near side edge.

- While shuffling the knees backwards, keeping the elbows bent at 90 degrees, allow the head to drive between the elbows, aiming to get the head in line if not past the bench.

- Hold a deep stretch for 30s - 2 minutes and repeat for 2-4 sets.

Front Rack Barbell Stretch

A great stretch before overhead pressing, for both shoulders and wrists.

- Approaching a bar, racked in-line with your collar bone, grip into the bar with hands just wider than shoulder width apart.

- Step into the bar and glide one elbow underneath, finishing with the bar in contact with the top of the shoulder, tight to the neck and elbow driving forward and up, past the bar.

- Repeat on the same side 8 times before changing. Repeat 3-4 times per side.

- Focus on keeping the hand gripped on the bar and driving the elbow through the bar and high

To conclude, these stretches can be used before a workout or as part of a daily mobility routine if you suffer from mild shoulder stiffness and pain. However if you have continual pain and restriction from day to day, or if something doesn’t feel right please seek professional advice.

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