The Biggest Shoulder Mobility Mistake (Part 1)


The glenohumeral joint (ball and socket of shoulder) is the most mobile AND the most vulnerable joint in your ENTIRE BODY.

This is a two-edged sword. On one hand, you are able to take your arm through an impressively wide range of motion. On the other, the lack of structural stability makes it the most vulnerable to injuries.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve noticed that MANY people have shoulders that are chronically tight and painful. The most common response to this, unfortunately, is to stretch the hell out of the glenohumeral joint. You know, that super mobile, vulnerable one. This is a HUGE MISTAKE.

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The key to properly mobilizing and strengthening your shoulders might be in an entirely different area of the body! What many people don’t realize, is that your shoulder movement comes from a variety of sources, and is dependent on a solid foundation for this movement to occur properly. Working our way from the center out toward the glenohumeral joint we need adequate function of the following before we starting cranking on the poor GHJ.

Breathing
Core Strength
Thoracic/Neck Mobility
Scapular Movement

I’m going to briefly go over the above in simple terms to shed some light on the subject.

Breathing is massively important because the respiratory muscles connect to a lot of stuff. If the tension of those muscles is too loose or too tight, it ruins the balance of muscle tension and takes joints out of their ideal position.

Core Strength is a similar animal. If your core isn’t working to provide a stable structure, other surrounding muscles are going to pick up the slack and try to be your core, when they just need to be themselves. Lesson to all muscles: Just be yourself.

Thoracic (middle spine) and Neck Mobility is crucial. If these don’t move, the muscles will be too tight and pull other body parts out of position. You also need mobility here for the Scapula to move around the way it should.

The Scapula has a lot of potential for movement, if it doesn’t move properly, the GHJ will compensate. The Scapula also houses the rotator cuff muscles, whose primary function is to rotate/move the ball and hold the ball in the socket of the GHJ.

Here is a nice overview of the Rotator Cuff if you are hearing this for the first time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotator_cuff

So you see, if you want to have your shoulder functioning at optimal, it is imperative to take care of the surrounding structures. You will frequently find that the GH joint is not tight at all, but instead the surrounding structures are forcing it to lock down.

Key points to remember–and what order to do them:
1) Learn to Breathe diaphragmatically (belly breathing without using your neck and upper traps)
2) Teach your Core to function like a core (crawling and side planks are great for this)
3) Mobilize the Thoracic Spine and Neck
4) Teach the Scapula to have mobility and stability
5) Don’t beat up on your Glenohumeral Joint.

Better Every Day,
Max

ps. I just finished up my Healthy Shoulder Webinar Series and it was a blast! If you missed it, you can access the recordings and links here for FREE.

Shoulders Part 2
Shoulders Part 3


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7 thoughts on “The Biggest Shoulder Mobility Mistake (Part 1)

  • Max Shank

    Hi Silvio,
    Without evaluating you personally it's hard to say. Typically a combination of all of the things you actually mentioned. I'll be covering a lot of material similar to what you're talking about in the webinar and more in the upcoming book. I would say do a drill for each problem you mentioned and then reevaluate each time so you can determine what helps you the most.

  • Silvio

    Hey Max. Great, concise info. Love how you get right to the point.

    Shoulder mobility is my weakest link at the moment. For example, I'm shrugging way too much when holding a kettlebell overhead with a straight arm.

    My question: How do you figure out what the problem is? Is it tight lats, pecs, lack of scapula control, t-spine?