Friday Fix: How to clean up your shoulders

A new feature begins today on the Max Velocity blog: The Friday Fix.

Every week, we'll give you a quick mobility solution to some of the more common problems we see in essential movement patterns. We'll start with one of the most stubborn areas of the body, the shoulders.

Specifically, rotational stability and range of motion in internal rotation.

When performing any kind of pulling movement (clean, snatch, pullup, rowing) or pushing movement (bench press, pushups, handstands, handstand pushups), the ability to stabilize the shoulder girdle with proper scapular mechanics is essential to optimizing performance and keeping your shoulders from getting ticked off.

Anyone who has performed any Olympic lifts (clean and jerk, snatch) has heard their coach cue "elbows high and outside." The purpose of the cue us to keep the barbell close and optimize the mechanics of the lift. But without the ability to internally rotate the shoulders without running into a block or transferring those forces to the rotator cuffs, a coach can cue it all he or she wants ... it's not going to happen.

Don't be this guy. Spend a few minutes fixing your shoulders.

Don't be this guy. Spend a few minutes fixing your shoulders.

This is how you fix it:

1) Lying on your back, place a lacrosse ball on the back of the shoulder -- on the musculature, not the shoulder blade. Roll over onto your side and position your triceps on the floor with your lower arm perpendicular to the body and the arm bent at a 90-degree angle.

With an open hand, try to lower your palm toward the floor (the goal is about 70 degrees). When you run into a block, squeeze your fist, hold for five seconds, release and then try to lower your hand further. Alternate between that and lowering the back of your hand to the floor, following the same contract-relax technique when you run out of room. 

While you're doing this, use one of your legs to manipulate the back of your shoulder on the lacrosse ball. When you find an ugly knot, stay on it while going through the above ranges of motion. Spend 1-2 minutes on each side.

2) Part II can be performed either standing and leaning against the wall (easier) or lying on your belly (more difficult). Either way, place one hand behind your back and position the lacrosse ball between the wall and the front of your shoulder (anterior deltoid). Allow your bodyweight to press down through the ball as you manipulate the front of your shoulder around on the ball to find the spots that are tight and restricted for you.

Variations of these mobility drills can be seen in this Mobiity WOD video from Kelly Starrett

K-Star also demonstrates a more advanced technique for freeing up shoulder stiffness in this video. Ask one of our coaches to help you get set up with this movement so you can safely reap the benefits of healthier, more functional shoulders.

At Max Velocity, we incorporate personalized corrective exercises into every Small-Group Personal Training session based on the results of every client's Functional Movement Screen. But sometimes, things get a little wonky and you need some extra attention. Dive into these Friday Fix mobility drills and let me know how they're helping you -- and what stubborn mobility issues you need help with.

If you need more help, we're here for you. Currently, we have small-group mobility privates by appointment on Mondays and Fridays in the 8 a.m. hour and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. If you're interested in seeing the benefits of specialized mobility programming, shoot me an email or come see me at the gym.