The Best Moves For Healthy Shoulders

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Shoulder impingement and pain is one of the most frequent injuries amongst athletes, body builders, and weekend warriors. What's worse, really common exercises — bench press, back squat, and dips — can put enough load on your shoulders to cause problems. Most of the trouble comes from mobility: If your shoulder lacks the range of motion it needs to handle these demands, you could be setting yourself up for heartbreak. 

It might be a no-brainer, but you lose shoulder mobility when the tissues surrounding the joint become stiff. Soft tissue around the shoulder includes all of the muscles, tendons, and the joint capsule — a lot of meat that can stiffen up and kill your mobility, opening you up to shoulder impingement and a heck of a lot of pain.

Essentially, if you want to prevent injury, maximize your strength and power, or workout more frequently, your shoulder needs to be mobile. Here’s how to make it mobile, and keep it that way:

Start with muscle releases. Releasing your pecs and rotator cuff muscles can help put the shoulder blade in a better position.

Pec Release

  • Stand facing the wall.
  • Place a lacrosse ball two inches below your collarbone and toward your armpit.
  • Move the ball right and left until you find a tender area.
  • Move your arm and shoulder forward and back, then up and down.
  • Lean your body into the ball as much as your can tolerate.
  • Do these movements for 45 seconds or until the tension resolves.

Teres Release

  • Lying on your side, place the foam roller or lacrosse ball under and slightly behind your armpit.
  • Move up and down allowing the roller or ball to mobilize the muscles under your armpit and behind the shoulder.
  • Continue to move the roller or ball around to tender spots and do these movements for 45 seconds or until the tension resolves.
  • Find a tender spot for the roller or ball, and then move your arm in a punching motion across the front of your body.

Once the muscles are released, you can mobilize your shoulder joint to stay in a better position while performing common moves:

Shoulder Girdle

  • Place a band around the front of your shoulder. Have the band anchored across your body in the back angled downward. Try anchoring the band at or below waist level. Start with your arm at your side, elbow bent to 90 degrees, with your thumb up toward the ceiling. Raise your arm as if you were throwing a ball. Return the arm back to the starting position. Repeat.

Shoulder Inferior Glide

  • Stand and loop one end of an exercise band around the shoulder and step on the other end of the band to anchor the exercise band to the ground.
  • Make sure the band around the shoulder is at the shoulder joint. In this position, raise your arm straight in front of you, lifting it past 90 degrees at the shoulder. Bring back to 90 degrees.
  • Perform this motion for three sets of 10, taking a break after each set. 

Cross-Body Stretch

  • Reach your right arm across your body toward your left shoulder.
  • Keeping your elbow straight, reach your left arm to the outside of your elbow and pull your right arm toward your chest. You should feel a stretch along the back of your right shoulder.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times.