05 Mar Shoulder Extension Mobility Drills
A few weeks ago I published an article on BENCH PRESS MOBILITY where I outlined several of the key mobility areas to address to allow for proper bench press form. One of those areas was shoulder extension mobility, a commonly overlooked component of shoulder mobility that can impact not only the bench press, but also pushups, dips, and muscle ups.
Since publishing that article, I’ve received many messages from athletes asking for further help improving their shoulder extension mobility as this is a problem area for them they had never known about. Here are my favorite shoulder extension mobility drills!
Assessing Shoulder Extension Mobility
Before deciding on treating any mobility piece, it is important to identify if you actually need to work on it or not. You’d be surprised at how often I find athletes wasting their time working on the wrong areas of mobility for their specific needs. Here’s how I assess shoulder extension.
Shoulder Extension Mobility Drills
A simple drill to improve shoulder extension mobility that is often done incorrectly. As I outlined in my bench press mobility article, we often see athletes lacking shoulder extension range of motion anteriorly tilting at their scapula (dumping their shoulder blade forward) to compensate. The same happens with the broomstick stretch so make sure you keep your shoulder blade locked down during the stretch.
Shoulder Extension PAILs & RAILs
Using PAILs and RAILs (Functional Range Coniditioning’s mobility approach) can be a great technique for improving shoulder extension range. Start by holding a passive stretch. Then actively perform hard isometric contractions (muscle contraction without movement) by pressing down into the barbell without letting any movement happen in the body. Then do the same by trying to lift the barbell up (without any movement). The combination of stretches plus isometric contractions makes for rapid changes in mobility.
Shoulder Extension Bridges & Crab Sliders
Initiate this movement by retracting (pulling back) and slightly depressing (pulling down) the shoulder blades then lift your hips up to stretch into shoulder extension.
This variation of the shoulder extension bridge gets more dynamic and takes more control.
These are my favorite shoulder extension drill as it also incorporates some thoracic mobility as well. BUT it takes someone that already has good shoulder extension and just needs a little bit more. Make sure to fully open the shoulders up and then raise the hips as high as possible.
Suspension Trainer Stretch
Using any suspension trainer (I’m using the Edge Suspension Trainer that is awesome quality for only $60), retract the shoulder blades and walk forward, pulling the shoulder into extension.
Eccentric Incline Curls
For some athletes, even after their passive shoulder extension mobility has been restored, they still default to dumping their shoulder blade forward when they go into shoulder extension. This drill is great for working on controlling that motion and fighting against this compensation.
Exercise I used this week to help a great CrossFit athlete control shoulder extension. After we improved her extension range of motion, Ann Marie was still dumping into excessive anterior tilting of her scapula. With this exercise we eccentrically loaded the biceps into extension and had her focus on keeping her shoulder blade locked down.