Last time, we talked about how range of motion at the shoulder joint can influence the catch phase of the freestyle swim stroke. I tried to convince you to tailor your swim stroke to what your body is currently capable of, while also committing to regular, continued work on improving your weaknesses. This time around, we’ll go through some techniques to help improve your shoulder mobility.

If you inherit poor posture from your daily working life, you might have discovered some room for improvement in the shoulder flexion assessment from last time. One of the most effective ways to bring about change is to first treat your shoulders to some therapy ball release techniques, and then work through range of motion. Try the following approach:

  1. Release thoracic spine and upper back
  2. Release external rotators of the shoulder
  3. Release pectoralis muscles
  4. Move through range of motion with Shoulder Flossing

There is a method to my madness and a strategy to the sequencing of these moves. We start with some release for the upper back, between the thoracic spine and scapulae, because tissue quality here plays a key role in motion at the shoulders. Full shoulder motion in all directions can only be accomplished with shoulder blades that move freely along the ribcage. If thoracic extension is limited and you have gummy tissue around your shoulder blades, your scapulae won’t move without compensation. We want to free this area up a bit first thing because our subsequent release techniques will continue to incorporate movement at the shoulder in various directions.

Next on our list is to address the external rotators of the shoulder. The external portion of the rotator cuff consists of the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and teres minor. Like the muscles of the upper back, these are usually laden with adhesions and trigger points, and they are often overstretched from slumping with rounded shoulders. With this in mind, we don’t want to stretch our external rotators more, we just want to improve tissue quality.

Our final ball stop is for the front of the shoulder and the pectoralis muscles. We will be calling upon shoulder movement in all planes with our technique here. This work could be restricted if we didn’t go through the previous release techniques to get the scapulae moving more freely.

Our grand finale is to take our released tissues through some dynamic movement to explore range of motion. The goal isn’t necessarily to stretch a particular muscle, but to open the shoulders into new positions that allow a freer movement pattern. Improved range of motion can make your chosen recreational activities and exercises smoother and easier to perform. This won’t happen overnight, but a regular routine will pay dividends over time. Check out the video lineup below, follow along, and remember to maintain consistency as the weeks and months go by.