Following the breathing exercise in Part 1 of this series on shoulder mobility, this post will provide another quick tip for improving your shoulder mobility: soft tissue work with foam rolling.
First, you’ll want to have really practiced the breathing technique in the first post. When we deepen our breath and focus on belly breathing, we can really effect the tone (read: tension) of our muscles. I also highly recommend once you have the 90/90 belly breathing to also add in the 90/90 hip-shift belly breathing. This expands the breath into our backs and into areas of our lungs that tend not to get a lot of air into them. When I first started this type of breathing, the feeling of stretching in my mid-back was amazing. And the feeling of decreased tone in various ‘tight’ muscles was pretty mind-blowing. I suggest practicing both of these types of breathing a couple of times a day for the best benefits.
The Why Behind Tip #2
After you do the breathing exercise, you’ll want to take that deep breathing with you to your soft tissue work. Foam rolling is most effective when we are breathing deeply while rolling our muscles. This is because deep, elongated breaths can reduce tone in our muscles, but also it puts us more into a parasympathetic nervous system state–the rest and digest state–where we feel a bit more chilled out, which will continue to relax any muscle tension.
Tone in the muscles around the shoulder, your lats, posterior rotator cuff muscles and your pec minor can restrict the movement of the shoulders. In the videos below you will see some of the techniques you can use to help decrease that tone and hopefully open the shoulders up even more.
Tools You’ll Need
- Foam Roller (if you don’t have one here’s two I recommend: Foam Roller 1 and Foam Roller 2)
- Tennis or Lacrosse Ball
Tips for Rolling
- Remember to breathe throughout the rolling process.
- Only roll over muscles, not bones.
- Move about 1 inch per second. This gives the body time to communicate with the brain, and thus “get the message” that it’s ok to release some of that extra tone.
- Roll for about 20-30 seconds at each muscle group.
- If you hold your breath or grimace during the rolling process, the pressure is too deep (read: you’re pushing too hard) for the sensitivity of that particular spot. Try rolling next to the sensitive spot or taking some of your body weight off the roller. If you push too hard, you could cause the muscles to tense up in response to too much pressure. This would be counterproductive, as is holding you’re breath, because you are not allowing the process of using your breath to relax muscle tension.
Tip # 2
Just like in the first blog post in this series, you can do a shoulder flexion to the wall test before and after your soft tissue work and check on how your range of motion improves.
After you have checked your shoulder flexion to the wall, try the soft tissue work shown in the 2 videos below. The first video demonstrates foam rolling and ball rolling of the lats and the posterior rotator cuff. The second video, in which my partner at Get Circus Strong, demonstrates ball rolling of pec minor.
Re-test your shoulder flexion to the wall, hopefully it has improved.
Look for the next Quick Tip for Improving Shoulder Mobility coming next month.
As always feel free to ask any questions you have via the comments. If you think someone you know might enjoy this post, please share. If you or someone you know is looking for a more personalized mobility work, please feel free to contact me, I train people in person, online and distance.
CPT, PN1, 200 RYT, FMS II, FRCms, FRAs