Use It or Lose It: Tips for Shoulder Mobility

One of the many esteemed readers (cough *one reader*) of Strong Body Today had made an inquiry into shoulder mobility. And while shoulder mobility is a wide and non-specific trait, I figured I’d throw it in on Olympic Weightlifting Thursday. Obviously Olympic weightlifters possess great shoulder mobility, it is one of the strength sports that capitalizes the most on good mobility. And its almost impossible to be a healthy weightlifter without full body mobility. Mobility issues are easier to disguise in sports like powerlifting and strongman. And it would be hard to ignore the tremendous mobility on display when a weightlifter receives a snatch in a full overhead squat position, much less some of the training that is common with these athletes to prepare for these motions.

So in the interest of integrity and transparency, today is not any material that is particularly unique or uniquely useful to the Olympic lifter over the ordinary bro. I just wanted a cheap stepping stone into a fairly general topic.

Today I will discuss four avenues to this topic:

  • The lazy man’s way
  • Supple Leopard vs. Juggernaut – caged ladder match for ultimate mobility domination
  • An Olympic coaching method

The Lazy Man’s Approach

This is a novel concept soon to be trademarked by SBT. Many of us ordinary lifter bros only stumble across the idea of mobility and flexibility when it is too late. We notice the loss of range of motion, impingement in the shoulder during certain movements, and sometimes tightness that transfers into our spine being compromised more than it needs to be with certain motions. This has long been a bad stereotype of the lifter bro, as it has spawned misinformation like “lifting too much will make you musclebound and lose flexibility.” This is a correlation, most assuredly not a causation. Mobility is a “use it or lose it” concept. Us lifter bros end up musclebound because we made mobility an afterthought, if we thought about it all.

Its hard to break us out of this mindset, and even harder when you tell us a 30 minute mobility routine before lifting. So it ends up being the same 0 minute routine. My preferred method is really just a 5 minute routine, which if you are good at math, is infinitely more effective  than your previous routine. I will take 3-5 mobility movements (from the YouTubes, this is personal preference as to how you move, so I won’t preach any method or measures) and just work through the ROM a few times. I do them on a rotating basis from a bigger list. Its quick, easy, painless enough and slowly is returning some mobility and flexibility back. Just the simple decision to START doing it moves you in the right direction.

The Cage Match of Doom: Supple Leopard vs. Juggernaut

There has been a bit of tension between followers of these two schools of thought. I am a total fence sitter on the matter. I own Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett, and I have utilized JTS “A Thoughtful pursuit of Strength” methods in my training as well. They can be effective methods, but in the world of strength training and completely unique human bodies, different methods work more/less effectively for different people. And most importantly, they are smarter than me, and have a lot more experience.

Dr. Quinn Henoch of JTS

Dr. Kelley Starrett of MobilityWOD

An Olympic Coaching Method

To make sure I can tie this entire dump of videos back to the original point, some coaching specifically aimed at weightlifting athletes.

As we take a deeper look into different methods, it is easy to become a bit overwhelmed with the wealth and breadth of knowledge present. This is why I threw in the concept of the “lazy man’s effort” in the beginning, not to suggest any new movements (pretty sure you could’ve learned those in 2nd grade gym class) but to just open your mind, to not suffer paralysis by analysis. Strong Body Today is always an advocate of making the small decisions, but making them consistently. And in an even more perfect world, we could all start making these small decisions BEFORE they become an issue in our lives, and not after. But instead, here we are in the REAL world…

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