Improve Your Overhead Motion

3 Oct

Improve Your Overhead Motion

There are a lot of moving parts in the shoulder complex, and these pieces have to work in harmony if you want optimal function of the shoulder. Why would you want optimal function? Because it will enable you to lift more weight for more reps more frequently all while minimizing the injury risk to the “most vulnerable” joint in your body. And everybody wants MOAR!!

A very simplified view of just what’s going on with the “shoulder complex”

  • Sternoclavicular Joint (Interaction of sternum and collarbone)
  • Acromioclavicular Joint (Interaction of collarbone and shoulder blade)
  • Scapulothoracic Joint (Interaction of shoulder blade and rib cage)
  • Glenohumeral Joint (Interaction of the humerus (upper arm; “the ball”) and the glenoid fossa of the scapula (shoulder blade; “the socket”))

For this post, we are just going to focus on two pieces as they relate to overhead motion:

  1. Upward rotation of the clavicle (collarbone)
  2. Upward rotation of the scapula (shoulder blade)

WHAT WE NEED

In overhead motion, both the scapula (shoulder blade) and the clavicle (collarbone) need to upwardly rotate. Upward rotation of the collarbone can often be restricted by a short/stiff/dense subclavius muscle. While upward rotation of the shoulder blade can often be restricted by a short/stiff/dense pec minor. And since these two structures interact with each other at the acromioclavicular joint, you can imagine the movement issues that will result if one or both are compromised.

HOW TO GET IT

SOFT TISSUE WORK

SETUP

  • An acumobility ball or a  lacrosse ball
  • A post or doorway
  • For the subclavius, position the ball just below medial end of the collarbone (closer to the sternum)
  • For the pec minor, position the ball just below the lateral end of the collarbone (closer to your shoulder)

ACTION

  • With the ball in the proper place, lean into the post or doorway to apply pressure to the targeted soft tissue
  • While applying pressure, alternate between abduction (lifting out to the side) and flexion (lifting out in front) of the same-side arm using slow, controlled movement
  • Perform for a minimum of 60 seconds in each area for a total of 2 minutes on each side

STRETCH

SETUP

  • A PVC pipe or dowel rod
  • Hold the pipe behind your body with palms facing forward and slightly wider than shoulder-width grip
    • This serves to “anchor” your shoulders in place

ACTION

  • With the pipe anchored down, alternate between rotation (looking left and right) and tilting (think “lifting your ear up to the sky”) of the head using slow, controlled movement
  • Perform for a minimum of 2 minutes
  • You should feel this gently from your neck through your upper chest and across your shoulder

HOW OFTEN

  • This whole sequence can be completed in about 6 minutes and it can yield big results
    • At a minimum, try it as part of your warmup before you overhead press and see if it makes a substantial difference for you
    • As a relaxing break from the computer, try it once a day to break up all that sitting

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