Essential Exercises To Improve Shoulder Mobility
A lot of athletes that bench press a lot, do a lot of overhead pressing, or just do a ton of big-time lifting where they become hypertrophic in their shoulders end of lacking shoulder mobility. Even athletes like baseball players, javelin throwers, and quarterbacks lack mobility in their shoulders because they lack stability in their shoulders, meaning they have a passive range of motion but they don’t have the stability.
We need to improve our overall mobility by enhancing our overall range of motion and strength throughout that entire range of motion. We have to focus on all of these key aspects as we try to open up the thoracic spine, lats, and make everything flow a little bit easier.
1. Shoulder Dislocation
Grab a dowel rod that is the exact technique size of a weightlifting bar. The goal during the shoulder dislocations is to try and get the bar behind the back in multiple different directions. As the body warms up and loosens up more, the hands can be brought closer and closer together to improve and wake up the entire back.
This is the first exercise to really ignite the shoulders and lead to better mobility throughout the workout.
2. Reverse Grip Dowel Rod Miracle Gro
One thing we have learned at Garage Strength is that athletes don’t really like doing mobility movements. One thing we can do to combat this mindset is to do mobility exercises paired with strength movements that are very similar.
We do this movement to open up the lats and upper back. We then superset this with a lighter, traditional dumbbell miracle gro. The whole goal is the thoracic extension. We want to try to balance the plate in the center of the dowel rod. Then reach back behind the head while laying on a bench, trying to get nice and deep. The movement will be felt right around the shoulder blades. Then come back up. Do this for three to five passes for multiple sets. Also, remember to try to keep the elbows long and in–this will be felt all the way into the rear delts and traps.
3. Dumbbell Miracle Gro
Rest about thirty seconds and move into a weighted miracle gro. Palms open while grabbing the dumbbell head. We want elbow flexion with just the upper back on the bench; the legs are positioned like a hip thrust. With that elbow flexion, we want to get the elbows behind the ears with a deep stretch where it is felt in the rear delts and the upper back. A pop may even occur around the rhomboids. Go ahead and do six or seven reps for multiple sets.
Rest two minutes before heading back into the dowel rod stretch movement prior.
4. Prone Lift Off
This movement is extremely hard. We start by being on our gut to do a prone liftoff. We can lay on a floor or on a bench on our stomachs. The goal is to get the dowel rod above the head. This will be felt in the middle of the back, into the rhomboids, and think about flexing as if holding in a fart. Flex the belly button into the bench.
Do this for two to three sets of five to ten reps. One trick with this movement, especially if you can’t even move the dowel rod, just do the movement with the hands facing one another and lift the arms up with just the upper body.
5. Y’s On The Incline
Again, a lot of meatheads don’t like doing mobility. That’s why we pair mobility movements with simple strength training exercises.
This movement will contribute to waking up the upper back. We want the thumbs up holding dumbbells as the palms face each other. Again, lift up and try to get the dumbbells past the ears. Make sure to do a slow eccentric. This will be felt even in the lower trap.
Two to three sets for seven to ten reps do the job. The movement will improve that overhead stability, overhead strength, and overall shoulder mobility.
6. Rotating Barbell Press
We love using an empty bar for rotating barbell press. Facing forward, we can rotate to almost ninety degrees, press, and pause. Come back to center and then rotate the other direction to almost ninety degrees and do the same thing. We want to feel the feet be more active to create more coordination through the body. Standing and rotating and pressing will help open up the upper back. The thoracic rotation will be felt pretty substantially.
Do this movement for two to three sets of five reps to each side and superset it with the next movement.
7. Z Press
People, especially kids, who sit all day struggle with this movement.
Typically we take the barbell out of the squat rack while seated. We are upright with our posture. With the z press grip, we want to squeeze in the gut, press, and pause at the top. Squeeze through the belly button and midback. It will be felt right inside the shoulder blades.
You’ll see that athletes who don’t do the rotating presses first, they’ll fall back or over because they lack trunk control. The point is to open up the upper back with the rotating barbell press. We then use the z press to imprint that same position with more load on the bar to teach the athlete how to contract their gut as they work throughout the entire movement.
Do this for two to three sets of five to ten reps.
8. Barbell Down Dog
The last thing we like to do when doing a hybrid mobility workout for the shoulders is a simple barbell down dog. Grab a barbell in a squat rack that is between the sternum and belly button. Keep the arms long and stretch the lats. Get to the point where the head gets down through and is in line with the hips.
Do four to six passes with a solid three to five-second count in the bottom.
9. Kneeling Lat Stretch
On the box, we can do something slightly different with a dowel rod but similar to the previous movement. Be aware that somebody who is a little bit more hypertrophic in the upper body may feel like they are going to blackout.
10. Close Grip Overhead Squat
Now that the upper body is really set up, with a dowel rod, right around the mid grip, focus on a narrow overhead squat position. The shoulders have to be really active to do this.
Then try to go even closer using an empty barbell. The traps, rear delts, and everything worked on will be firing.
The upper back will be lit up at this point and the shoulders will be way more mobile. A lot of these movements can be done three or four times a week. Just make sure to pair the movements with strength movements to increase the motivation to do the mobility work. Give the exercises a try and let us know how they go.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.