Shoulder Mobility- 5 Reasons To Improve It NOW
When most moms start out to achieve fitness goals, they rarely think of the small stuff like shoulder mobility. Not only do shoulder mobility exercises get ignored but then we also jump into crazy exercise routines and expect our bodies to perform optimally. It’s a combination for disaster.
Improving shoulder mobility is something I wish I took more seriously years ago. And while it was always in the back of my mind when I said things like “my shoulders are just super tight” or “I just don’t move there”, I never gave a shoulder mobility routine priority.
What I’ve learned in the last few years though, is that shoulder mobility is crucial.
Not just for moms and not just for lifters but for all of us.
Implementing shoulder mobility exercises and a thoracic and shoulder stretching regiment will make a huge difference to your fitness goals as well as everyday life.
If you’re unsure what area I’m talking about, it’s the area from your mid back all the way to your neck. This is known as your thoracic spine. And while many people spend time strengthening this area (with posterior exercises) many people overlook making sure it moves.
Keeping your mid to upper back strong is insanely important as a mom and while pregnant. Most of my workouts while pregnant focused on the back and hip muscles. Likewise, for proper posture and less back pain, keeping the upper back strong is key.
And while I am all for strong, making sure your body moves properly is important too. And many of us have a lack of range through the shoulders which causes a host of issues (scroll down)
Reduce Neck Pain & Headaches
This is perhaps the most crucial of reasons to implement shoulder mobility drills. We carry a lot of stress in our shoulders.
One of the most common complaints I hear as a personal trainer is sore necks/upper backs.
We sit hunched all the time- at work, in the car etc and then we round our backs to play on our phones too. So yes, these muscles normally end up weak but they’re also tight.
This means that we end up unable to sit up straight or rotate.
Fun fact: it’s your upper back that is supposed to rotate, not your lower back. Unfortunately, if our upper back can’t move our lower back ends up doing the job.
If your thoracic spine and shoulders do not move. All of this tension creates pain and one of the biggest symptoms is headaches!
Learning to get more movement into this area will increase the blood flow, place the body in it’s optimal position and reduce tension. Thus, less pain and headaches.
Note: there could be a lot of other reasons you’re experiencing pain and headaches. Please get checked by a medical professional to determine the cause
Injury Free Lifting
Someone once told me that a tight muscle is also a weak muscle and is going to be an injured muscle.Click To Tweet
And after a few years, I can’t agree more! More often than not, a muscle is tight because it needs to compensate for another muscle doing it’s job. Once said tight muscle is released, it’s normally weak because it hasn’t had to go through a full range of motion in forever.
If you leave a tight muscle as is and continue to train around it, it’s going to end up injured- which is why shoulder mobility drills are crucial.
Think of your hamstrings: if your hamstrings are super tight, what’s going to happen when you try a Romanian deadlift and lengthen them with weight? It’ll hurt.
Similarly, if your shoulders don’t move and you decide to hang from a bar. Or even more practically, fall and grab something to catch. They’re going to be injured.
The ability to move properly helps keep you injury free both in the gym and out of it.
Side note: if a muscle is super locked/tight there could be a reason. Just releasing it could cause issues if the problem hasn’t been solved. For example, lots of people have tight hip flexors so they stretch and stretch and stretch. But the reason these are tight is partially due to lack of glute activation. So, until you strengthen the glutes to help support the hip flexors…. 😉
Obviously one of the goals of exercise should be to remain injury free! But there’s lots of us who would like to smash some serious goals- like pull ups (listen to episode number four of the podcast if you need some hep there!)!
I adore pull ups (check out this video of all my favorites!!). And you can definitely DO pull ups with poor shoulder mobility (I did!). But you won’t EXCEL at pull ups until you work in some shoulder mobility exercises.
If your shoulders and thoracic spine don’t like to move, it means that your not getting a full range of motion on your pull ups. You can muscle it to an extent (I always let my biceps take over) but only for so long.
If you want to master pull ups, work a shoulder mobility routine. When your shoulders are able to go through a full range of motion, your back muscles can take over. Since these muscles are far larger than your arms, your pull ups will be more functional and far more badass. Your can progress them easier and with less pain (here’s some killer pull up drills to work on!)
Shoulder Mobility And… Back Pain?
But, lack of movement in the shoulders is another common cause.
For starters, without proper thoracic and shoulder mobility, your upper back isn’t where it ideally should be. This makes your lower back compensate, normally by coming into an anterior pelvic tilt.
This lumbar position isn’t ideal either. The spine was meant to mostly have one vertebra on top of each other but APT (anterior pelvic tilt) causes a sway back. This means that your weight against gravity is poorly distributed and your back hurts.
The other reason is that your low back is not meant to rotate much (I think maybe only 12 degrees?). your upper back (the thoracic spine) is meant to rotate (up to 40 degrees).
If it doesn’t have the ability to do so, your low back ends up twisting and turning and again, causes pain.
Range Of Motion
This one sounds selfish but the old saying of “you don’t use it you lose it”. You may be able to reach overhead to grab a can now… but what about in five years? Ten?
If you don’t start making shoulder mobility drills a priority, you’ll lose a lot of the abilities you take for granted.
Aging doesn’t have to come with poor range of motion, hunched backs and complaints. Implement preventative measures like should mobility exercises and stay on top of it.
How To Improve Shoulder Mobility
There’s a lot of shoulder mobility exercises but I took the time to film a few of my favorites. All you need are a set of resistance bands which you can snag from prosourcefit.com
In addition to shoulder mobility drills, I’ve recommend stretching your shoulders and upper back (in extension and rotation)
The three stretches in the video are:
- Inverted cat
- Thread the needle
- Elevated puppy dog stretch
Don’t forget to pin these tips to improve your shoulder mobility!
A shoulder mobility routine doesn’t have to take long, and it doesn’t have to be intense. But these little drills and shoulder mobility exercises will make a huge difference to the functionality of your body.