One of the most common injuries in CrossFit is damaging the shoulders. They are a complex joint that take allot of abuse through lifting, pressing, stabilising and pulling. Over time, shoulders can start to lose their range of motion which will then start to compromise our form, efficiency and power – at this point injuries can start to creep in.
A measure of this is to measure how much internal and external rotation range of motion we have. To do this lie on your back and place on arm out to the side horizontal to the body with the elbow on the ground and fingers pointing to the sky. Now keeping your elbow on the floor see how close you can get the palm of your hand to the ground. You will probably get fairly close, but now look at your shoulder – has it lifted off the ground and come forward in its socket?
Repeat the exercise, only this time have a partner pin your shoulder to the ground. This will start to limit you and is a real test of your range of movement!!
So lets start working on this complex joint by loosening the muscles of the thoracic spine . Using a double mob ball place it underneath you whilst lying on your back towards the second and third rib (near the top!). Have your partner place a heavy plate on your chest to apply downward pressure and extending your right arm, move it through a full range of motion – from the floor to overhead and back. Repeat this for 15-20 reps each arm and then move the mob ball lower down the back and repeat until you have reached your mid back. See the full video Thoracic Spine Smash.
Next we are going to work on improving the internal rotation that is so important in the snatch, muscle up, ring dips etc. To do this we use rubber bands that have been affectionately known as ‘Voodoo Bands’. These are long strips of rubber that compress the tissues of a specific area whilst we mobilise them and have amazing results. You can either make your own from a bicycle inner tube or you can buy them from Rogue Europe (if you have friends in the USA they are cheaper there!).
Wrap the high part of the shoulder with the Voodoo band at 75% tension down to the top of the biceps. Now adopting the position of the internal rotation test above, get your partner to move your arm into increasing the range of motion by moving your palm towards the floor whilst trapping your shoulder with your hand or foot. Work on each should for approx 2 mins. Take the band off and retest – have you made change? See the full video here.
So we have dealt with the back muscles, shoulder joint, now we look at the chest (or pec) which is a big muscle group which acts as a shoulder stabiliser. Take your arm out to your side at shoulder height and bend your elbow so that your palm lies comfortably on your same side pec. Now place a single mob ball underneath. Press on top with your other hand and you are likely to find some knots or pinch points under there. Keeping the ball in that spot, lean against the corner of a wall, door or post and pin the ball with your body and let you hands drop to your sides. Raise your straight arm to the front (the side that you are focusing on) in a straight line in front of you until it is at shoulder height. Now bend it and bring your elbow back in a straight line as far it will go and drop your arm to your side. Repeat for 15 – 20 reps each side moving the ball as appropriate. Again for a full demo see the video here.
Keep working on these mobs, they will improve your efficiency and performance and ultimately reduce the risk of injury. Don’t have douche-bag shoulders – don’t be ‘that’ guy!!