Shoulders do a lot of work in CrossFit: push ups, dips, handstand push ups, handstand holds, handstand walking, shoulder press, push press, push jerk, bench press, Turkish Get Up, snatch, pull ups and more!  Keeping your shoulders healthy and functional will keep you pain-free and help you perform better.

Saturday Josh from West Coast SCI visited and put on an excellent clinic assessing and addressing shoulder flexion dysfunction.  We had a great turn out and Josh has provided a summary of the session as a refresher to attendees and for those unable to attend:

Shoulder Dysfunction related to the overhead position
This position requires Shoulder Flexion and External Rotation with palms facing in (Chin up grip).
It is important as it is a starting position for movements such as:

  • Muscle Up
  • Chin Up
  • Pull Up

And the ending position for movements such as:

  • Snatch
  • Push Press
  • Overhead Squat

Full range shoulder flexion requires:

  • Ears visible from the side
  • Elbows Straight
  • Shoulders Externally Rotated (thumbs pointing behind you with armpits forward)

Common Shoulder Flexion Faults:

  • Elbows Out (Tricep Limitation)
  • Shoulders Rolled Forwards (Missing External Rotation)
  • Low Back Extension/Rib Flare (Missing Flexion)
    These faults, along with most movement limitations can be caused by:
  • Articular Movement Limitation (Movement at the joint level. Unable to roll or glide in it’s desired direction due to capsule limitation)
  • Physiological Movement Limitation (Soft tissue layer, dynamic movers)
  • Poor Motor Control (Neurological connection, coordination and activation)

We need to address these issues to improve shoulder flexion range of motion.  None of the following techniques should hurt. Pain is never a normal reaction, if you have pain you likely need to have a healthcare provider such as a Physio, Chiro, Osteopath, RMT investigate further (Josh is a bit biased toward physio 😉 )

Progression from joint level mobilisation to soft tissue release to activation will prime your shoulders for a workout requiring overhead movement and is a great warm up. If you are really limited it should be done daily!

1.   Shoulder Capsule Mobilization for Flexion (Standing or Supine with KB)
1-3 minutes within tolerance

Standing against wall option.

2. Soft Tissue Mobilisation for Shoulder Flexion (Lat Smash Ground and Wall)
3 minute minimum, but build up to this within tolerance. Remember to explore the entire area of the lats.

3.  Progressive/Regressive Angular Isometric Load 
30-40 sec hold, 10-15 sec PAIL, 10-15 sec RAIL repeat for a total of 3-5 times
If you get any discomfort with this just remain in a stretch instead

As a coach, I was very impressed with the straightforward and effective methodology: assess movement, address capsule mobility, address tissue restriction, address neurological limitations.

3 basic, easy to do, exercises (with optional variants) that produced immediate improvement in functional shoulder range of motion.

And once the movement limitations have been addressed, and these exercises applied, the best rehab is to do the WOD to strengthen the shoulder joint in it’s correct, functional movement pattern!

In September, we hope to have Josh return to address common dysfunctions in the elbow joint, an issue familiar to many CrossFitters!