Local Experts: Improve Shoulder Mobility

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Good shoulder mobility can not only improve shoulder function, but also improve performance and limit injuries. With athletes, and especially dancers, now specializing in one sport at an early age and many of them increasing their training outside of their sport, their shoulders can lose the flexibility and strength needed to perform at their best. Since many sports
primarily use the “pushing” muscles during competition, these muscles can get very strong, but many times at the expense of the pulling muscles. This creates a muscle imbalance and possible decrease in range of motion which can lead to decreased performance and injury. 
Common injuries to the shoulders may include dislocations, tendonitis and muscle strains. In recent years I have also noted that many dancers with low back pain have limited shoulder mobility. A possible cause could be that the dancer is unable to lift their arms straight overhead and must arch their lower back to get into that position.

So what are the push and pull muscles and how can we help alleviate this issue? The push muscles are the ones in the front of the shoulders and include the pectoralis or chest muscle and the anterior deltoid. The pull muscles are found in the back of the shoulders and include the rotator cuff group, posterior deltoid, rhomboid and latissimus muscles. These muscles primarily stabilize the shoulder joint. 

There are two simple exercises that can get you on the road to healthier, more stable shoulder. They are standing shoulder flexion and scapular rotation exercises that only require a wall to stand up against. 

In the shoulder flexion exercise, the dancer stands with their back flat against the wall and raises their arms straight above their head. The arms need to remain straight and the back needs to stay flat to the wall. The goal is to get the back of the wrist up against the wall and
create a small push against the wall.

The scapular rotation exercise again begins standing up against a wall with the back flat to the wall. Starting with the upper arm parallel to the floor and the forearm perpendicular to the floor, rotate the shoulder upward abducting the shoulder and extending the elbow, again maintaining contact with the elbow and wrist to the wall.

Though the exercises sounds easy, it can be very challenging for those with limited shoulder mobility. I suggest that a dancer perform these exercises for 3 sets of 15, 3-5 days per week until the exercises become easy and more advanced exercises can then be implemented. This will ensure better form on the dance floor.

Chris Phillips

Backstage SoCal Expert: Chris Phillips is an Athletic Trainer, Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Sports Safety Specialist with over 25 years’ experience in professional hockey, football, dance, cheerleading, and soccer. Chris has worked with hundreds of professional, Olympic and Hall of Fame athletes and is the owner of Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Lake Forest, California. For more information, visit http://competesportsperformance.com/.


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