3 Ways to Improve Your Shoulder Health

by Steve Maze, DPT

Throughout the course of your training, your shoulders are going to take quite a beating.

I mean when you think about it, nearly every movement and exercise involve your shoulders in some capacity.

Snatches, cleans, jerks, push-press, thrusters, overhead squats, front squats, and even deadlifts. Then there is all of the push-ups, pull-ups, muscle-ups, dips, rope climbs, inverted rows, handstand push-ups, and kettlebell swings. Even the friggin’ Erg and Bike require your arms.

Therefore, I think we can agree that it is important that you take decent care of your shoulders if you want to continue training over the long term. 

However, to do so doesn’t require some elaborate-complex-90-minute-mobility-workout regimen. All you need is an easy, simple, AND consistent routine. 

I recommend using the following three-prong approach.

1.       Soft Tissue Work

2.       Stretching

3.       Prehab Strengthening

Start with #1, Soft Tissue Mobilization (STM) Work.

I’m not going to get into the boring physiology and exercise science behind what Soft Tissue Mobilization is, there is plenty of info on all over the internet. Easiest way to think of it is like this:

Have you ever had someone come over and massage your traps and shoulders for like 30 seconds? If you have, you almost immediately have is feeling of relief and relaxation all throughout your neck and shoulders. 

This is what we want to get when performing STM. The goal being to reduce that feeling of stiffness/tightness in the muscle tissue.

This can be performed by a variety of different methods. You have your basic SMR (self-myofascial release) techniques such as using a foam roller, lax ball, mobility WOD ball, massage stick, or TheraGun on all the various muscles groups of the shoulder such as the pecs, lats, traps, and delts. 

Or you can spend a little extra cash (*wink, *wink) and get a HIGHLY QUALIFIED professional who can perform more ADVANCED techniques such as cupping, IASTM (instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization), and advanced myofascial release. 

Proceed to #2, STRETCH!

After completing no more than 5-10 minutes of STM, hit a few basic stretches. For example, if you did some STM on your pec or lats, perform 2 or 3 pec and lat stretches. Again, the google and YouTube machine has hundreds and all them work. 

The secret is actually DOING them, consistently, every day!

However, everyone is different and you probably need something a little more individual and specific. So come see me and I can help you out! 

I am able properly assess you, determine what exactly is tight, what exactly is weak, and provide the exact stretches and exercises you need to correct the issues. 

After your stretches hit #3, Prehab Strengthening. 

Now that things are feeling nice and loose, it’s time to work them out a little bit. 

And what I mean by that is, working out the small muscles that often get under worked during training. And these small muscles consist of your rotator cuff and scapular stabilizing muscles. 

These little guys are REALLY important in helping the big guys out during training (big guys = pecs, lats, delts, and traps). 

Again, this doesn’t have to be overly complicated to do either. In fact, the Crossover Symmetry bands are a great way to target those little guys in a quick and simple way. 

But if you need help figuring out which ones you individually need, come see me!

In summary, having even moderately mobile and healthy shoulders will ensure that you have a long Crossfit career. By doing some basic things, you can reduce the possibility of getting sidelined for​ a few weeks due to that annoying, nagging shoulder pain. It may also prevent you from having to scaled down workouts because something is tight or weak or painful. If you have any questions or want some more in depth knowledge feel free to see me and I would be more than happy to help you out!