4 min read.
If you want smooth beautiful boulder shoulders that look good, you have to think about how they function first – if you just do the things that you WANT to do and never do the “incredibly boring Tom Morrison stuff” you’re going to run in to problems. Everyone has had a cranky shoulder at one point in their training career, probably more than once – but you know what? It is completely avoidable. If something is so bad that you cannot even lift your arm – you need medical attention. If you just have an on and off cranky shoulder? That’s up to you to fix it.
One of the most basic elements of The Simplistic Mobility Method is your POSTURE. If your joints aren’t stacked correctly then all of your training will suffer AND you are putting yourself at risk of injury. If your shoulder is sitting too far to the front of the socket, you will experience pain and weakness. I like to use the diagram below to explain this:
If your shoulder is sitting comfortably in the centre on your socket you can overhead press, do dips, do press ups – do whatever you like! If your shoulder is travelling forwards however, anything apart from bench press is going to aggravate you… and just because you can bench a lot of weight, it does not mean your shoulders are healthy.
So Tom, how do I know if my shoulders are good for anything other than benching?!
The first thing to check is – how your shoulders naturally rest, do they round, does one sit differently to the other? Stand in front of a mirror or your phone and just look at yourself, seeing where your shoulders rest. Try jumping up and down a few times and completely relaxing your shoulders and arms before you judge, it’s natural to try and fix your posture when you’re assessing it. If the back of your hand is visible; more than just your index finger and thumb; then your shoulders are slightly protracted (rounded forwards) which will affect how you press and pull.
After checking, if your shoulders are sitting in a good position – great! Although it never hurts to do maintenance on the shoulders every now and again. If you notice your shoulders are rounded, from a subtle tilt to fully forward, it’s great that you now know if there is an issue, now is a good time to start implementing GOOD exercises!
Improve Thoracic Mobility
Your upper back mobility is essentially the key to fixing a lot of shoulder mobility issues. Getting stuck into stretching your shoulders directly could actually cause more issues by creating instability. Using effective thoracic openers like zenith rotations is much better place to start! The main focus of zenith rotations is improving thoracic rotation, which will improve thoracic extension allowing your entire chest to open up and help your shoulders to sit in a more optimal position.
Start in an all fours position and place one hand behind your head, sit back slightly and lock your hips in place then start to rotate yourself with you upper back so that your elbow points to the ceiling, 3 sets of 10 each side.
Improve Shoulder Retraction
After working on your upper back you want to work on the muscles responsible for retraction of your shoulders. Batwings are a phenomenal way to do this. Lie face down on a bench and grab a couple of light weights. Roll your shoulders back and down then draw your elbows back as far as you can while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hit this for 3 sets of 20-30 second holds.
Improve Shoulder Function
Next thing you want to start incorporating is shoulder rolls in various positions. Let’s briefly get in to the scientific elements about your glenohumeral joint and scapular rhythmic stabilisation:
Your shoulders go:
AND MAKE CIRCLES….
You can either pull or push and that’s it.
The better you can become at MOVING your shoulders the better you will become at controlling them, scale the exercises in the video below to whatever level you’re at, but generally I would aim for sets of a million…
Disclaimer: This stuff is not an overnight fix. It can take several weeks for someone to change how their posture rests, or even months for some people. But it is a more permentant fix.
Create lasting strength
Once you have the basic elements mastered and have noticed improvements in your posture, two of the best exercises you can add to your training are the bottom up kettlebell press and Turkish get ups. Or even a combination of the two! Challenge your shoulders in as many different angles using as much different stimulus as possible. They are designed to do great things, but only if you look after them.
The Simplistic Mobility Method covers these elements and a lot more for your entire body, it is a video tutorial and guide that you can follow along to and will get you in the way of thinking about your body before strength training – which is the secret to longevity.