Last week we took you through a video tutorial of systematic static shoulder stretching . With an emphasis on breaking our habitual day-in-day out posture of a flexed, adducted and internally rotated shoulder. We prefaced our tutorial by saying that how and when you stretch is up to you.
Research is divided on static stretching as a whole. So instead of preaching to you a dogmatic “right way” to stretch, we’re merely going to give you the tools and let you decide a system that works for you.
Continuing on with the theme of shoulder stretching, this week we will introduce a dynamic progression of shoulder stretches, to be used when and how you see fit.
ESTABLISHING A BASELINE:
In every facet of health we establish a baseline measurement or an objective outcome to use as a reference point for a programs success.
- If you wanted to start a new squat program in your training you would establish a true one-rep max, or calculate a predictive based on submaximal lifts. Follow the program and retest against your previous one rep max.
- If you went to your doctor and wanted to lower your cholesterol, you would get a blood draw and establish your baseline, in order to re-test against to gauge progress.
- If you wanted to shed some extra poundage before beach season, you would hop on a scale, hit the weights, cut out the sweets and then re-check to see how much you’ve lost.
But for some reason objective outcomes are never, EVER incorporated when looking to improve mobility. People just haphazardly stretch when and if they have time, sold on the idea that if they are “loose” they might not get injured.
Well ,we are going to change that.
Before you embark on the humbling experience of increasing shoulder mobility we are going to establish a baseline for your success. In order to do this all you will need is a standard cloth measuring tape, you can find these at any fabric store or steal one from your local IKEA.
To start you are going to hold one end the tape with a firm grip, while leaving the other hand loose enough that the tape can slide through your fingers.
Initiate the motion of bilateral circumduction, keeping the designated hand loose allowing your hand to side out as you bring both hands above your head, and finish at your final position behind your back
Once you arrive at your end point in full bilateral shoulder circumduction, tighten your grip on the measuring tape with the pre-designated “loose” hand.
Record the distance between your two hands, and Voila! You now have a reproducible, reliable, baseline outcome assessment for your newly founded shoulder mobility program.
Just as I mentioned in the last article Prehab volume one: static shoulder stretching there are contraindications to introducing a stretch into the shoulder. This is not a one-size-fits-all progression. If you have a known anterior instability of the shoulder then you should proceed with caution.
This means if you had at any point you have or been diagnosed with:
- Dislocated your shoulder
- Torn a rotator cuff
- Torn a labrum
Then you should be extremely cautious when attempting this progression.
Also it must be noted for the record; ladies, you too should precede with caution, joint laxity is much more prevalent in females.
THERE IS SUCH THING AS TOO LOOSE:
All traumatic injuries aside, acquired mobility can, in itself lead to just as many injuries as acquired immobility. A lot of people think that there is a linear inverse relationship between mobility and injury prevention, which simply put means “ the more mobile I am, the less likely I am to get injured”
In actuality, the relationship between mobility/immobility and injury follows a more “ U shaped” relationship. Which in our case means that the fringe values of mobility and immobility are just as susceptible to injury, and like most everything life, they key is to find a balance between the two.
PHASE ONE: UNILATERL CIRCUMDUCTION
All three phases will be working the shoulder through the motion of circumduction, which is the most fully encompassed shoulder movement as it includes:
- Internal rotation
- External rotation
Phase one will consist of a five pound weight in each hand (2.5 lbs can be used as well).
Standing with feet shoulder width apart, you will bring one shoulder at a time, into full flexion until end range, followed by a slight internal rotation as the shoulder moves back into extension, and finishes at its starting point.
The motion will then be done in reverse, starting with external rotation as the shoulder comes into full extension till end range, and then return to the starting position.
PHASE TWO: BILATERAL BANDED CIRCUMDUCTION:
This phase will require the use of a light resistance band.
To start, we assume the same position as phase one, expect this time you will hold the band in each hand with a pronated grip (palms facing your body), and make sure you start at the end of the band.
Simultaneously initiate bilateral shoulder flexion, be warned that tension will increase as you approach full flexion and externally rotate to descend behind your back into extension. The goal is to keep the elbows fully extended so that as you reach the peak of the movement, there is a stretch applied to the anterior structures of the shoulder.
The final position is mirror image of the starting position just behind the back.
Before we move to the next phase, we can progress the banded circumduction by narrowing our grip. Equally bring your grip in on the band with both hands, this will start the stretch early, maintain it longer, and intensify it at its peak.
PHASE THREE: BILATERAL DOWEL CIRCUMDUCTION:
As you may have guessed by the title of this phase, it’s just more of the same. But we’re changing the stimulus by moving to a more rigid stretching apparatus. For this phase you will need a dowel (broom handle etc). Due to the rigid, unforgiving nature of dowel, we are going to start all the way at the ends.
Just like the banded circumduction, the next progression is going to be a narrower starting position, make sure you inch it in slowly, the mid-position of the circumduction is a comprised position for the shoulder to be in, but if you keep your wits about you and heed the warnings, this can be a very beneficial to overall shoulder mobility.
So there you have it, a progressive, easy to follow, three step introduction to dynamic shoulder stretching to be implemented when and how you see applicable. You can progress all three in your first workout if you feel like you have adequate mobility. Or you can do a slow progression and work one phase at a time, graduating through the progression over time.