It should come as no surprise when I say that overhead mobility is a critically important part of becoming great at Olympic weight lifting.
Having poor stability/flexibility at the shoulder joint can massively impact your ability to stay balanced in a snatch bottom position, produce enough force in the jerk and generally keep your shoulder joint healthy enough to sustain the rigours of constant lifting.
In this article I plan to arm you with some simple drills you can perform that not only increase the range of motion from your thoracic spin up to your shoulder, but also will give you long term joint health benefits as well as keeping your rotator cuffs pretty happy.
Exercise #1 – Anchored Thoracic Extensions.
Equipment Needed – Foam Roller, Olympic Bar.
This exercise is great for increasing range of your overhead position and keeping your spine healthy. The exercise itself is actually quite simple, but man does this feel uncomfortable.
In the photo below notice that I anchor my hands to a barbell. Then I lower my hips to the ground to emphasise extension. Many people when they’re lying over a roller or trigger ball, cant move their arms into a good overhead position due to a lack of mobility. This is why for this exercise I recommend anchoring your hands to the ground. It facilitates better reach and increases the impact of the exercise.
Exercise #2 – Overhead Rib Mobilisation.
Equipment Needed – Trigger Ball.
A lot of athletes, coaches and physio therapists seem to think that an impingement of the shoulder automatically means a rotator cuff issue. Here’s what’s really happening, when your scapula is in a disorganised position, it turns off your rotator cuff. So if someone tells you your rotator cuff isn’t working properly, you probably need to restore the scapula position to turn the rotator cuff back on.
If you start at the top of the scapula, place the ball between your shoulder blade and your spine. Bridge your butt up as high as possible, driving the ball deep into your soul and reach your arm overhead. Keep your elbow locked out. Now draw your arm across your body and try to touch your opposite hip. Those rhomboids, traps and para spinals get really tight.
Exercise #3 – Lat/Rotator Smash
Equipment Needed – Foam Roller/Trigger Ball
Wherever possible, you want to mobilise a position that is similar in shape to the position you want to change. For example, if you want to change your overhead position it makes sense to put your arm in an overhead position and mobilise anything that might be limiting your range. In most cases, you will find your under arm region, where your Lat and rotator cuff insert into your armpit is really tight and stiff.
A tight lat compromises your ability to stabilise your shoulder and is a mechanism for shoulder pain. Spend some time scrubbing back and forth across your ropey bits and restore order to your shoulder. And remember, you are responsible for mobilising your entire lat, which runs from your armpit to your lower back.