Shoulder Safety: Basic Benchmarks for Greater Shoulder Strength and Control
Everyone can benefit from greater shoulder health. Whether you work a full-time desk job, lift weights on the regular, or just feel like your shoulders are worn down from years of abuse, we’re here to assure you that you ARE NOT DOOMED! Your posture, movement, and tight muscles are all sure to benefit from these do-anywhere shoulder exercises.
We all want healthy, pain-free shoulders, and no matter how achy or tight you may feel, they’re yours for the taking! Full range of motion should come before fancy rotator cuff exercises and heavy dumbbell raises. Using this quick test, you can ensure your shoulder function is off to a great start. Here we go:
Partial L-Sit: Scapular Depression
For this first exercise, floor space is all you’ll need. Take a seat with your legs extended in front of you and place your hands next to your hips. The goal is to lift your hips off the ground by pushing down strongly into the floor. Squeeze your triceps to help keep your elbows straight and do your best to increase the distance between your shoulders and your ears. How long can you hold? Shoot for at least 30 seconds!
Having trouble lifting off? Trust us, your arms are NOT too short. Being able to lift your hips is a matter of improving your shoulder, core, and back strength. If necessary, use stretch blocks or dumbbells to give yourself a little extra height while you strengthen your body. And remember, keep pushing down as much as you can while keeping your elbows totally straight. Don’t shrug!
Enjoy this shoulder/core combo progression inspired by the GB Foundation Series!
Hang Time: Scapular Elevation
Next, we’ll test your mobility and strength in the opposite shoulder position: a shrug. For this exercise, you’ll need a pull-up bar or beam that you can hang from while still keeping your feet on the ground. Be sure it’s sturdy enough to hold your weight and let’s get to hanging!
To begin, stand under the bar or beam and get a firm grip. Next, straighten your elbows completely and slowly bend your knees. Keep sinking lower and lower. You should feel your shoulders rising. Let them lift as much as you can; the goal is to keep your shoulders next to your ears for the entire length of the hang. Now, if it feels comfortable, gently lift your toes off of the ground and hang in there for 30 seconds.
If you can’t quite hang with your full body weight, ease into a full hang gradually by keeping your feet on the ground. Over time, slowly work to support less of your weight on the ground (play with using one foot to support you, then the next). Your arms will get used to hanging very quickly and your shoulders will love you for it! Don’t rush the process. Go slow and gradually build to a full body weight hang.
Scapular Shrugs: Protraction and Retraction
Now that your core got a nice rest during your hang out session, we’re going to throw a little ab engagement back in. Your goal is to maintain a plank position either on the floor or using a countertop, table, or bench that is about hip high. This one is hard to visualize, but the goal is to pinch your shoulder blades together, toward your spine, and then spread them apart.
Try to only move your shoulder blades during this exercise. Keeping the rest of your body in a straight line is key. Moving your shoulder blades in this new way is a lot to think about already but try your best to keep your core, glutes, and even your thighs engaged as you practice. Aim for 10 repetitions at a time.
If you’re having trouble isolating your shoulder blades during these, try them kneeling on the floor. This will remove the core burn and makes the shoulder support much easier, allowing you to focus on form. Practice this way for a while and then use your countertop or dinner table to begin adding that core engagement back in. With all exercises, your form should be made the top priority. There is no sense in grinding out extra reps if your body is not in the best position.
Controlling the movement of your shoulder blades should be your first step towards creating healthy, strong, mobile shoulders. The GB Courses will take you as far as you want to go.
Keep practicing these exercises until your form is spot on and your shoulders will be in the best shape ever! We use exercises like these GymnasticBodies shoulder mobility drills to build a solid foundation of mobility control, and strength before increasing the demands on the shoulder girdle for the challenging – and sweet looking – skills ahead.