Before we get into this let me first pre-emptily strike any research nazzi ‘s out there. Yes, okay, I admit that you can find research that says static stretching decreases speed, power and leaves you susceptible to injury. I can also find research that says that drinking coffee gives you lung cancer, or that the moon is made of provolone.
In the world of evidence based practices conventional research is but a small part of the story. With flawed methodologies they usually lead to misleading conclusions, and in my experience (almost a decade of training) static stretching used in progression with dynamic stretching can be a great way to prepare for exercise also to stave of the negative effects of poor posture.
This systematic shoulder stretching series is a great starting point for weekend warriors and serious lifters alike. It addresses the major muscles that approximate the head of the humerus with the glenoid as well as the coraco-acromial arch; this narrowed joint space leads to a common condition known as shoulder impingement.
Impingement can be caused by many factors- some of which I must humbly admit cannot be alleviated by stretching. But for the large percentage of gradual onset shoulder pain associated with frequent exercises this series is a great starting point. And a great way to break out chronic posture of a flexed, adducted and internally rotated shoulder.
#1 SHOULDER ADDUCTOR STRETCH
Stretching your shoulder adductors is often overlooked, and unless your frantically waving your arms on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for a living. More than likely you spend the majority of your day in shoulder adduction.
Now the stretch outlined in video references triceps and lats as adductors, which might confuse some, the major adductors of the shoulder are the pecs and lats. But, as I mentioned in my article Triceps Training: the long and short of it in the externally rotated shoulder position the long head of the triceps which attached onto the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula also acts as an adductor.
The Pec minor is a little more difficult to isolate that some of the other muscle of the shoulder, and technically speaking isn’t a muscle of the shoulder in the conventional sense (glenohumeral joint). It originates from bony prominence of the scapula called your coracoid process and fans downward to attach on to you upper ribs. The elevated and extended elbow position uses the humerus to rotate the superior aspect of the scapula posteriorly, bringing the coracoid process and the pec minor along with it. The downward 45-degree angle of the torso into the wall helps bring the attachment point of the pec minor further form its origin, thus causing a maximal stretch to an otherwise difficult to isolate, and often problematic muscle.
Pec major stretch is very basic from an anatomical perspective. If the pecs action is to bring the shoulder into adduction, transverse flexion and internal rotation, then the simplest way to stretch is to oppose those actions.
So starting with the feet parallel to the wall, extend the involved elbow to shoulder height, at 90 degree of abduction, 90 degrees of external rotation. Keeping the palm flat on the wall, bring the involved shoulder into the wall and then slowly begin to rotate the opposite shoulder away. This will begin to pull the sternum and medial clavicle (orgins of pec major) away from the insertion at outer lip of the inter tubercular groove.
The initial starting position is similar to the pec major stretch but instead of 90 degrees of elbow flexion, the arm is full extended, with the thumb of the involved side facing the wall. This fully extended shoulder position with the pronated wrist will apply stretch to the biceps, both at the elbow where it plays a role in supinating the wrist, and at the shoulder where the long head crosses to the joint to attach to the supraglenoid tubercle and acts as a secondary shoulder flexor.From there the rotation of the opposite shoulder will begin to act on the anterior deltoid which works is the primary flexor of the shoulder, and as the body rotates further away into the stretch you will feel the pec major strain as well as it begins to oppose the motion of transverse flexion (also know as horizontal adduction)
** In the video I neglect to mention the pec major and its role as a transverse flexor. I point to my chest and say bicep twice, so if you make some smart-ass comment about it and try to be a goddamn keyboard warrior, then clearly you didn’t read this, so shame on you.
I know what you’re thinking… that’s a big word, triple word score material.
But believe it or not there are actually people who should AVOID this stretching protocol.Generally speaking, if you work a run-of-the-mill 8-5 desk jockey job, then you will find these stretches beneficial, however if you have known anterior shoulder instability, whether from a inborn genetic laxity or an acquired post traumatic injury, these stretches should be approached with caution and is some cases avoided all together.
Static stretching is in no way a silver bullet answer for shoulder problems, or for any joint related issues for that matter. It’s merely a tool in the toolbox, to be integrated when and how you see fit.
If you want to abide the strictures of research then by all means avoid it pre workout, or if you want to integrate it with dynamic stretches and adequate warm up then by all means do that too. But you can’t argue the benefit of transient muscle lengthening in breaking the static daily posture of our work-a-day lifestyle.