Want Better Lifts? Work on Your Shoulder Mobility

Mobility workout
Justin Steele

Lifters who lack shoulder mobility have a tell: During barbell front squats, their elbows point down instead of straight out in front. Ensuring shoulders enjoy a full range of motion is essential, since limited mobility increases the risk of injury—mainly because it changes the body’s alignment and creates muscular imbalances.

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On the flip side, developing mobility can make certain exercises, such as front squats, feel easier. Plus, it’s nice to have total use of your shoulders when you’re throwing a ball, putting on a jacket, or taking a box off a shelf.

One test of shoulder range of motion is to clasp hands behind your back, one elbow high and one elbow low. If there’s a gap, your mobility is lacking. If you can do it in one direction and not the other—meaning your hands touch when your right elbow is high, but not your left—that’s a sign of imbalance.

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It will take time to build up range of motion. Take a few minutes each day to stretch all the muscles around the shoulder: pecs, biceps, lats, traps, and delts. While you’re stretching, focus on deep breathing—five inhales and exhales per position—which will enhance the movement. And until your hands clasp behind you, use a towel or yoga strap to bridge the gap.

The other benefit of working on your shoulder mobility? It feels so good.

Angelo Grinceri is a personal trainer at boutique fitness studio Performix House in NYC

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