Here’s a Quick Way to Test Shoulder Flexibility
In the world of fitness and athletics, having the ability to move your shoulders through full range of motion is essential in gaining superior strength in your upper body, as well as maintaining sustainable long-term health. Look at the upper body of most high-level athletes and what do you see? Strong, robust, but flexible shoulders that allow them to master seemingly impossible skills with ease.
This balance of mobility and strength comes from proper joint preparation and stretching for the shoulders. After completing these tests, if you find your shoulders have some room for improvement, don't waste any more time. Add these stretches to your daily mobility routine (you do have one of those, don't you?) and do your best to make time for more dedicated shoulder mobility sessions.
Coach Christopher Sommer, the founder of GymnasticBodies, has always said that his most successful athletes do what’s needed today, to make progress tomorrow. For most of us, this means addressing our mobility deficits. Due to modern day living, which consists of sitting at a desk and looking at computer screens, many adults get tight in the muscles of their chest, shoulders, and upper back.
Grab a towel and some wall space so we can go over two simple tests that you can use today to check the flexibility of your shoulders.
Standing Shoulder Extension Test
Having the ability to extend your arms behind your back is not only important for your training, but also for maintaining the health of your shoulders. Almost everything we do is with our arms out in front of us, so it’s no surprise that many adults cannot bring their shoulders into extension. Having poor shoulder extension stems from tightness in the chest and biceps which can lead to hunched over posture and pain or impingement in the shoulders.
Use the GB Online Courses to alleviate stiffness in your shoulder joints and improve your overall mobility.
To test your shoulder extension flexibility, grab a towel behind your back with your palms facing down (video above). From this position, raise your arms back behind you as high as you can, all while keeping your head in a neutral position and ribs pulled in; squeeze your core! Initially, you may need to start with a wider hand placement to do the stretch, but as your mobility improves you will eventually be able to bring your hands to shoulder width while raising your arms parallel to the ground.
If you find that you are lacking shoulder extension mobility, don’t worry. Most adults are. Performing this drill regularly will help as will the Thoracic Bridge Stretch Series, which is an entire workout designed by Coach Sommer himself that's dedicated to helping you open up those tight shoulders.
Shoulder Flexion Test
The ability to bring your arms overhead is known as shoulder flexion. For optimal shoulder health and performance, you should be able to raise your arms all the way up above your head while squeezing your shoulders towards your ears. The inability to do so is a result of being tight in the lats, upper back, chest, and arms. If you have restriction in these muscles, then you are likely to arch your back when reaching overhead. This compensation can often lead to lower back pain and discomfort.
A simple way to test your shoulder flexion is to stand with your back against a wall with your feet roughly 12 inches from the base. Press your entire back against the wall by tucking your pelvis under and pulling your ribs in towards the spine. Raise your arms forward and up as far as you can without any part of your back coming off the wall. Try to reach the wall behind you with your hands.
The inability to reach the wall indicates poor shoulder flexion, which can be improved with gymnastics stretching exercises like those found in the article we linked to in the beginning. Our Handstand One Course also contains a gold mine of exercises that will stretch your shoulders, strengthen your core, and improve your posture, all while teaching you how to hold a perfect handstand.
If you are finding that you have some shoulder mobility issues, we’ve got you covered. Be sure to check out the GymnasticBodies Courses for diagnostics and educational lessons to discover where your current strength and flexibility lies.