A Full Body Approach to Shoulder and Hip MobilityOct 05, 2023
I talk a lot about the relative motion available to us at the shoulder and hip because having this motion allows us to perform tasks without compensations that we may create because we don't have the available motion. To me mobility is about way more than being able to move a femur or humerus around in the socket or being able to move each segment of the spine. While these are all helpful in creating control they don't address what happens more proximal (near the center of the body). If we want to really start from the center then we have to include the breath because this is the only way we can expand from the inside out to change the position of the ribcage, spine and pelvis.
If I have a ribcage that is really flat on the back then I am likely going to have a scapula that loses congruency with the ribs which will limit my shoulder overhead flexion and external rotation. Check out this picture to give you a visual. On the left picture there is more expansion of the ribs backwards compared to the right.
Because this compression pushes my center of mass forward I'm going to also have a hip that struggles to flex because the pelvis is dumped forward and a hip that also struggles to extend because of too much shortening and tension on the front. Here is a visual that is often considered an anterior pelvic tilt but that doesn't take into account the role of the ribcage.
By expanding the back of my rib cage I improve all ranges of motion at the hip and shoulder, because I have a larger total arc of motion.
To feel this in your own body give this simple test a try. Stand upright and slowly raise your knee up, stop whenever you feel tension in the front of the hip or you have to hike your hip or round your spine to get further. Take note of how high your knee is and what it feels like in the hip (ease of movement).
Now that you have some idea of your range give these 2 exercises a try for 10 breaths on each side (you might have to split this up in 2 sets of 5). Both of these exercises optimize joint position to push the center of mass back, expand using the breath from the inside out, and create a facilitation of muscles of one side and inhibition of muscles on the opposite side of the joint to create a more cohesive approach to joint mobility.
Now it's time to retest with your standing hip flexion. Notice if you can go higher or if you feel less restriction overall. If you follow this up with your hip CARs or even just a strength drill that requires more hip flexion like a deeper squat, you will get more out of the activity and will be less likely to compensate to get the job done.
Let me show you how this concept might be applied to the shoulder and help improve internal rotation. First, let's test our internal rotation. You can use an Apley's Scratch Test for IR or shoulder IR at 90 degrees of abduction, as shown below. Notice how they feel, when you sense tension or feel like you are hitting your end range. If you find your shoulder dumping forward that is also an indicator of limitation.
Check out the video for an explanation here.
Now that you have an idea of your range give these two exercises a try that combine joint position, expansion from the inside via the breath and active facilitation and inhibition to optimize length tension relationships around the joint. 2 sets of 5 on each side should be a good start.
Now it's time to retest with your shoulder IR tests. Notice if you have more range or feel more of a sense of ease in the motion. If you follow this up with your shoulder CARs or perform an exercise that requires internal rotation like a bench press or pushup you will get more out of the activity and be less likely to compensate.
Let's take this one step further, since I know if you are on my list, you love all the feel good full body mobility things and appreciate a little nuance and complexity. 🥰
Both of these drills improve shoulder and hip internal and external rotation, flexion and extension, and aBduction and aDduction. Basically they give your whole body a big mobility fix by combining motions and timing it with the breath.
Kneeling Side Plank with Hip and Shoulder Roll and Reach and Rotating Kickstand Hinge with Shoulder Retraction and Protraction
- I may use one of the first two exercises, the Bear with Hip Extension and Active Supinated Wall Reach, followed by the Kneeling Side Plank with Hip Roll for a more dynamic movement in my warm up, to get me ready for a heavier squat day or day that I need more thoracic mobility or overhead flexion.
- I may use one of the second two exercises, Side Lying Hip Slide Wall Press and 90 90 Chest Press with Elbow Pull Back, followed by the Kickstand Hinge with Shoulder Retraction and Protraction for a more dynamic movement in my warm up to get me ready for a heavier hinge or chest press day where I need more hip and shoulder internal rotation.
If you are looking to learn to go a bit deeper into these concepts and have a guided daily practice to start to improve range of motion at the shoulders and hips with an inside out approach then make sure and check out my courses Scapulothroacic and Lumbopelvic Foundations. They both contain over 60 exercises, tons of learning content and are self paced with lifetime access. Use the code 15OFFFOUNDATIONS for 15% off. (this includes the bundle option)