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As a personal trainer in Portland, my I strive for longevity. In the last two video’s I put out focused on core strength, lower back health, and posture. I want to switch gears and go over a few shoulder stretches and warm-up exercises that have been helpful for me. I’ve used these on my days off to improve mobility and before exercising to warm my shoulders up. By getting our shoulders more mobile we also improve your posture and relieve pressure that may be transferring into our lower back. Say you’re doing an overhead shoulder press but your shoulders are too tight to be able to press the dumbbells directly over your head while keeping a straight back. Most people will compensate by extending at their lower back. Over time this puts a lot of wear on your lower back and can lead to some serious problems. Another big problem from tight shoulder is impingement. There is a gap in our glenohumeral joint between the arm and the roof of the shoulder where tendons run through. When your shoulders are tight, usually accompanied by dominant anterior deltoids, the shoulder rounds forward, closing that gap causing those tendons to get pinched. Having healthy shoulders is amazingly important. See what you can get done when your shoulder is in great pain and barely works. VERY LITTLE, I’ve been there.

Warm up 1: Arm circles- Start with your arms raised to your sides level with your shoulders. With your fingertips up make small circles forward at a good pace. For the sake of time in this video, I didn’t do the number of reps I typically do. A good place to start is 20 circles. Once you have done 20 forward switch directions and do 20 more. After that, we are going to make the circles larger and now with our fingers pointed down and repeat the same thing, 20 circles forward 20 backward. Pretty easy shoulder warm up but you will be surprised how much it kicks in. Adjust a number of circles in each direction accordingly to your level of strength.

Warm up 2: Rotator cuff rotations- Holding 2.5 to 5-pound plates, start with your arms/elbows at your sides and your forearms extended forward at a 90-degree angle from your elbow. With your elbow pressed close to your side, you are going to externally rotate your arms out as far as you can without putting a strain on your shoulder and without lifting your elbow away from your side. Then internally rotate your arms back in so that your hands and plates meet in the center of your body. It is important to keep your elbow/arm close to your side. If you’re rotating your arms out to a point to where your arm lifts off your side you have gone too far. readjust and go just far enough to where it stays snug to your body. I do 30 reps in this position but adjust that to your level of strength. This is not warm up that you’re pushing the limits. Its a warm up, keep it on the mellow side. We’re warming up your rotator cuff muscles and not working them out. If you drain your rotator cuff muscles out too much in your warm up they may not have the strength when you need them in your shoulder workout and you can get injured. In the second piece of this workout, you are going to raise your arms up so that your elbows are level with your shoulder. Again keeping the same angle at the elbow, at 90 degrees. With your arm and elbow level with your shoulder and your forearm/ hand directly above, lower the plates (internally rotate) till they are level with your elbow. Then bring them back up. Like the first piece of this workout repeat as many times, you are comfortable with. I do 30 reps on both pieces of this warm up.

Warm up/stretch 3: Shoulder dowel stretch- In these next few parts we are going to move into shoulder stretches. For this first stretch, you are going to need any kind of a stick or dowel. Starting with your hands down out from your sides holding onto the stick. With your core tight and back straight, fighting to not extend at your lower back raise your arms up over your head. With your hands positioned on the dowel at just the distance to where you are unable to rotate your arms over and behind your head. With your arms above your head, core tight and back straight holds the position. After about 10 seconds of holding that position, lower the dowel and repeat around 5-10 times.

Warm up/stretch 4: Back foam roll arm extensions- For this shoulder stretch, you will need a foam roller and any kind of weight, kettlebell, dumbbell, plate etc. And anywhere from 5 pounds up to whatever you are capable of using. Starting with the foam roller placed at the top of your back and holding onto the weight, extend your arms straight out from your body. With your core tight and lower back straight, lower your arms behind your head while keeping your arms straight. After holding that position for around 10 seconds raise your arms back up and move the roller an inch or so down your back and repeat. Work your way down your back with the roller but not into your lumbar spine. The lowest you should go is to your belly button. When you reach that point repeat at the top of your back 1 to 2 more times. The trick to this one is not extending at your lower back. We are trying to stretch your shoulders and get some movement in your thoracic spine. Often people’s thoracic spines become less mobile making their lumbar spine overcompensate. By mobilizing our thoracic spine we don’t recruit our lower back to move when it isn’t supposed to.

Warm up/stretch 5: TRX shoulder stretches – I’m going to say this stretch is a bonus, and may even need to be done at the end of your workout or on a day when you are not working out your upper body altogether. We have already gone through enough warm-up/stretches sufficient to prepare yourself for a workout. Adding this one in before a workout may be too much. But I do really like this one so I wanted to keep it in the video. If you like this stretch more than the previous two stretches you can use this one instead. With the TRX handles about level with the bottom of your chest slip your arms through the lower straps and place them at the end of your biceps right before your elbows. With your knees on a pad and your hands behind your head spread your elbows. Keeping your elbows lined up with your shoulder extend out from your hips. The further you extend at your hips the more pressure will be placed on your shoulders so take it slowly. When you find an appropriate place to stop hold the position for about 10 seconds. After holding the position retract your body taking the pressure off your shoulders. Repeat around 5 times.

These exercises have done wonders for me as well as many of the clients that I work with.  I run through at least a few of these warm-ups before every upper body exercise.

shoulder stretches

Evan Zener @ Fit-InMotion



Evan Zener

Fit-InMotion Personal Training

Northeast Portland OR, 97212

(971) 285-0847 – [email protected]