This video will share four of our favorite exercises for improving overhead mobility. So, if you’re struggling with your overhead lifts, handstand work, or gymnastics-based skills on the rig, you want to try these drills out to unlock their shoulders and get them in a better position.
Suggested Program: Overhead Mobility Overhaul
Best Exercises for Overhead Mobility Transcript
Sleeper Stretch Eccentrics
Our first exercise is going to be sleeper stretch eccentric. We’ve got a band attached low on the ground, and Pamela is going to have her elbow at the same height as her. So we’ve got a ninety-degree angle here, and she’s got her shoulder blade pulled back underneath her body. And what she’s going to do is use her nonworking hand to lift that arm off. The forearm starts flat on the ground, and then she slowly lowers it down. So she’s going to do that for a few reps.
What we’re doing here with this exercise is so often, the back side of the shoulders can be a little bit stiff. And most people don’t realize that posterior shoulder stiffness will limit your overhead mobility. These sleeper eccentrics are my absolute favorite for people with posterior shoulder tightness.
Bench Stretch for Overhead Mobility
Exercise number two is going to be the bench or prayer stretch. It goes by both names, but I will show you two different variations depending on where you’re more limited in your overhead mobility. Pamela’s going to start kind hands together like she’s praying on the edge of her bed, and she’s just going to drop down, thinking of pulling her chest down towards the ground.
And what you’re going to notice as she goes into position is her shoulders getting open up, but she’s also arching her upper back. So we get a little bit of thoracic mobility work and shoulders.
Now, if you’re somebody who is tighter in your lats, that’s what’s limiting your shoulder mobility more. This hack is going to get you a lot more out of that. So Pamela is going to hold the PVC pipe. And what she’s doing is she’s grabbing that with her hands wider than her elbows. So that puts her shoulders and external patient. And she’s also going to think of rounding her back and kind of keeping her tailbone tucked underneath her, and then she sits back as she goes down. And you’ll notice she does go down near as far as she did earlier because that combination of her tailbone may have tucked underneath her. That hand positioning puts a lot more stress on the lat muscle, and it’s going to get more of a stretch in that area compared to earlier when her hands were together.
Exercise number three is going to be a lat eccentric.
So Pamela is lying on a bench or a box. She’s got her hips flexed, and her hands are grabbing the PVC pipe with a lightweight on it. Palms are facing up.
She’s going to lower that down overhead and then bring it back up. But that’s a slow lower down, a little pause in the bottom, and then back up. The backup doesn’t have to be slow if you want to speed it up.
The reason why I like this is not only because it stretch the lats and shoulders but also because it is for so many people with stiff shoulders. They’ll tend to arch their back quite a bit as they press or do any overhead movements. And that becomes their ingrained pattern when they’re going overhead: to make up for those stiff shoulders, they use their low back a little bit. As we mobilize those shoulders, we don’t want that to still be the position you go to when you overhead, press, or do overhead drills. So by doing this setup, we can cue that athlete to keep their abdominals on and lock in their back positioning as we open the shoulder up.
My last favorite exercise for improving overhead mobility is down dog. But I’m going to do this with a couple of different twists to the technique. Number one, we start by pulling the shoulder blades together, letting the body sink down, and then we push our shoulder blades apart. So we’re going to activate all the muscles around the shoulder girdle. Then, after Pamela is in this high plank position with her shoulder blades pushed forward, she’s going to continue to think of pressing her hands into the ground and asking for her hips to open up.
This technique will work on all these small muscles around the shoulder girdle for many athletes who lack a little bit of range strength, especially if they’ve had stiff shoulders for a long time. So this is a great combination drill to open up a little bit of mobility and put a little bit of that in-range strength on the shoulder that we’re not just opening up mobility, you can’t control or aren’t strong in. You get the best of both worlds by doing a little bit of downward dog.
Overhead Mobility Conclusion
Alright. So there you have my four favorite exercises for improving overhead mobility. Some of those you’ve seen before, some of you probably haven’t.
The key to the shoulder is unlocking those areas, and you will be better positioned for all of your overhead lists.
If you want a proven plan to help you do that, check out our overhead mobility overhaul at performanceplusprogramming.com, which has helped thousands of athletes get their shoulders in a healthier, more mobile state.