What can you do to improve your CrossFit shoulder mobility? CrossFit incorporates a wide range of functional movements that engage the entire body, including the shoulders. Exercises like overhead presses, push-ups, snatches, and cleans challenge the shoulder muscles, promoting strength and stability.
CrossFit workouts are known for their constantly varied nature. This variety exposes the shoulders to different movements and angles, preventing overuse and promoting balanced muscle development.
Many CrossFit exercises require core stability, which translates to improved shoulder stability. Strengthening the core muscles helps maintain proper shoulder alignment and reduces the risk of injury. Developing strength and suppleness of your muscles is important so your CrossFit shoulder mobility does not restrict you.
This is Part 5 in the series on ‘Shoulder Mobility’. You can go back to Part 1 if you like to read them in sequence. Click here: ‘How to Increase shoulder range of motion‘.
What are some Common Shoulder Injuries in CrossFit and how can Mobility Exercises help prevent them?
Common shoulder injuries in CrossFit include rotator cuff strains, impingement, and labral tears. Here are some ways mobility exercises can help prevent these injuries:
- Rotator cuff strengthening: Lack of rotator cuff strength is a common cause of shoulder pain in CrossFit athletes. Rotator cuff strengthening exercises can help prevent injury.
- Integrate mobility and stretching into workouts: Incorporating mobility and stretching exercises into your workouts can help improve your range of motion and prevent injury.
- Improve scapular stabilizing muscles: Strengthening the muscles that stabilize the scapula can help prevent shoulder injuries.
- Warm-up exercises: Expanding your repertoire of warm-up exercises to restore a normal range of motion in the shoulder joint can help prevent injury.
- Proper mobility for overhead movements: Proper mobility is crucial for overhead movements like the snatch. Good shoulder flexion and external rotation can help prevent injury.
Adding these exercises and techniques into your CrossFit routine can help prevent common shoulder injuries and improve overall performance.
CrossFit Shoulder Mobility Exercises
1. Shoulder Dislocates
Shoulder dislocates involve a controlled movement that mimics the action of a shoulder dislocation without causing any injury or damage and can help improve shoulder mobility for CrossFit. Here’s why:
- Shoulder dislocates help stretch the shoulder joint: this exercise involves holding a PVC pipe or broomstick with a wide grip and slowly raising it overhead and behind your back. The movement helps stretch the shoulder joint and improve shoulder mobility.
- Shoulder dislocates can help prevent injury: By improving shoulder mobility, dislocates can improve the area involved in overhead movements.
- Shoulder dislocates can improve strength: Weighted shoulder dislocates can also help improve shoulder strength. Important for CrossFit athletes who perform a lot of raised or reaching movements
They can be done as part of a warm-up or mobility routine and modified to suit different fitness levels and abilities.
Exercise: This exercise involves holding a PVC pipe, resistance band, or broomstick with a wide grip and slowly moving it in front of and behind your body in a circular motion. Shoulder dislocates help increase shoulder flexibility and improve the range of motion required for overhead movements.
2. Banded Shoulder Distraction
Banded shoulder distraction is a mobility exercise that can help improve shoulder mobility for CrossFit athletes because it:
- Stretches the shoulder joint: Banded shoulder distraction involves using a resistance band to stretch the shoulder joint.
- Improves overhead position: Helping CrossFit movements like overhead presses, handstand holds, and front/back squats.
- Reduces stiffness and soreness: Aiding improved recovery and reducing the risk of damage of the shoulder joint.
- Increases range of motion: Improving overall performance in CrossFit workouts.
Exercise: Using a resistance band, secure one end to a sturdy anchor point and loop the other end around your shoulder. Step back to create tension in the band, allowing for a distraction of the joint. Move your body in different directions to explore and mobilize the shoulder joint.
3. Thoracic Spine Mobility
Thoracic spine mobility can help with mobility for CrossFit in several ways, including:
- Improved overhead position: Thoracic spine mobility exercises can help improve your overhead position. This is important for many CrossFit movements like overhead presses, handstand holds, and front/back squats.
- Better execution of exercises: Enhance dynamic alignment, functional movement, and execution of the exercise. This results in a better workout that adequately transfers load through the body while minimizing the risk of injury.
- Improved shoulder range of motion: Allowing you to have the barbell stacked right over your head more easily.
- Decreased risk of injury: Thoracic spine mobility exercises improve posture, reduce stiffness, and increase range of motion
Improving thoracic spine mobility can have a significant impact on your CrossFit performance and enhance your overall functional movement.
Exercise: Limited mobility in the thoracic spine can restrict proper shoulder movement. Exercises like foam rolling, thoracic extensions over a foam roller, and cat-camel stretches can help improve thoracic spine mobility, leading to better shoulder function.
4. Handstand Hold and Walks
Handstand holds and walks can help with shoulder mobility in CrossFit in the following ways:
- Shoulder stability: Handstand holds and walks require a high level of shoulder stability.
- Overhead position: Handstand holds and walks require a good overhead position, which can help improve shoulder mobility and flexibility.
- Shoulder taps: Shoulder taps are often used as a progression for handstand walks. They allow you to practice shifting your weight in a controlled manner against the wall.
- Upper body strength: Handstand holds and walks require a lot of upper body strength and good core.
Exercise: Handstand holds and walks require significant shoulder mobility and stability. Practicing these movements can improve shoulder strength, control, and range of motion. Start with wall-assisted handstands and gradually progress to freestanding handstands and handstand walks.
5. Band Pull-Aparts
Band pull-aparts can help with shoulder mobility in CrossFit in the following ways:
- Scapular movement: Band pull-aparts can help improve scapular mobility and stability.
- Upper back and posterior shoulder strength: Band pull-aparts can help strengthen the upper back and posterior shoulders.
- Warm-up: Help prepare the shoulders for the workout and improve the range of motion.
- Variations: Target different areas of the shoulder and upper back, which can help improve your overall shoulder flexibility.
Exercise: Hold a resistance band in front of you with both hands. Pull the band apart by externally rotating your shoulders and squeezing your shoulder blades together.
6. Rotator Cuff Exercises
Rotator cuff exercises can help with shoulder mobility in CrossFit in the following ways:
- Restoring full mobility: Rotator cuff exercises can help restore full, pain-free mobility to the shoulder joint. This helps you to perform overhead movements.
- Strengthening the rotator cuff: Improves shoulder stability and reduces the risk of injury during CrossFit workouts.
- Improving dynamic stability: Rotator cuff exercises can help improve dynamic stability in the shoulder joint. A big plus for CrossFit athletes who perform a lot of complex movements.
- Decreasing strain on the shoulder: Strengthening the rotator cuff can help decrease strain on the shoulder joint.
Shoulder Stretch Ideas for Crossfit
Here are some recommendations for shoulder stretch exercises:
- Squat and reach: Squat down, knees bent, and touch your toes. Touch your right hand to your right toe. At the same time, reach with your left hand overhead and towards your right side. Repeat on the other side.
- Resistance band over and back: Stretch a resistance band in front of you with both hands. Drop your hands in front of you with a resistance band. Lift the band up and over your head and behind your back and over again.
- Cross-arm stretch: Stand up straight and cross your right arm over your left arm at the elbow. Bring your palms together and push your hands away from your body until you feel a stretch in your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
- Chicken wing stretch: Stand with your back against a wall and your arms bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your elbows and forearms against the wall. Slowly slide your arms up the wall as high as you can without lifting your elbows off the wall.
- Shoulder dislocates: Hold a PVC pipe or broomstick with a wide grip. Slowly raise it overhead and behind your back. This movement helps stretch the shoulder joint and improve shoulder mobility.
Access the Benefits of CrossFit Shoulder Mobility
CrossFit workouts often involve high-intensity training, which promotes overall cardiovascular fitness and endurance. Stronger cardiovascular health indirectly benefits the shoulders by enhancing blood flow, nutrient delivery, and recovery to the shoulder muscles and joints.
The other great benefit of participating in CrossFit is the community and coaching. It is often done in a supportive community environment, where coaches provide guidance on proper form and technique. This emphasis on correct movement execution helps individuals learn safe shoulder mechanics, reducing the risk of shoulder-related injuries.
Having Crossfit shoulder mobility at its optimum is definitely going to help you get the most out of those sessions.
This is Part 5 of the ‘Shoulder Mobility‘ series.