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Old Forum Shoulder mobility

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Level 2 Valued Member
Hi. Can anybody recommend good way to improve shoulder mobility to allow be to get properly overhead? I've been trying to use armbars but I don't seen to get the sane stretch alone as I have with a partner (I train alone at home generally). I was planning to start KB strong but feel my progress may be limited by the tightness getting two bells overhead, and possibly the increased risk of injury.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

Doug Descant

Level 1 Valued Member
There are 100's of individuals who are more qualified to answer this question (most of  'em are named Brett and/or Jones), but I'll give it a shot since shoulder mobility tends to be my limiting issue. Smart people please correct me if I'm way off.

Have you been put through the FMS screen to assess if your shoulders are , in fact, your weakest link? We can only guess from what you're telling us that shoulder mobility is your biggest issue; however, their may be other limiting factors as well. (hip, core). The FMS screen will show you your current movement baseline as well as expose your weakest link. It may be shoulder mobility, then again, it may not be.

If you've got limited shoulder mobility then KBS may not be the program for you. Again, I don't know you personally, so please don't take this as insult to your experience. Which programs have you completed recently? In other words, have you spent quality time with swings, get ups, and single KB work in order to progress to doubles? (which is a whole new beast w/in itself)

I didn't see much improvement in my own mobility issues until I went to a chiropractor who specializes in Graston, Active Release, FMS, as well as SFMA. He cleared most of my tightness w/ hands on therapy ( that felt like Medieval torture at times) as well as Rx corrective exercises to help me regain acceptable range of motion.  Again this is just 2 cents coming from a dumb Texan fire fighter .

Hope you find the answers you're looking for. Best in strength.


Level 2 Valued Member
Hi Doug. Thanks for your thoughts.

i've not had an FMS screen, although I've take a look through the PDF online and this looks like something worth looking into.  I've previously seen a physio who identified tightness in my traps, rhomboids and chest as factors affecting my shoulder mobility and ability to take my arms overhead.  While I have also identified some lack of core tightness in the overhead position, I am addressing this with planks.

My KB experience is time spent doing the PM and S&S.  With regards to S&S I was previously working 100 double hand swings with 24 kg in under 5 mins (I hadn't progressed to one hand as some sharpness was lost in  rounds 8 upwards) and TGU with 24kg 4 each side holding each position for 10 secs (5 in 10 mins at normal speed was fine but was working at time under tension).  In my plans to progress I considered a 32kg KB, however given an upcoming time constrains and my daily e-mails from Geoff as to how great KB strong is ; ) I ordered a second 24kg with the plans to give it a go.  as life would have it, various things prevented me from training and eating as usual and when I resumed S&S I found that I was back to using the 20kg KB - gutted!! after some time spent regaining strength I can c and p 24 kg doubles for 3-4 reps but feel hampered by my overhead position.  All in all my single KB experience is around 18 months and I have recently had my swing and TGU technique checked by SFG level 2 who found few problems other than some shoulder tightness overhead.

i can't afford chiropractors at the minute so I'm looking for mobility work I can do alone at home.  I'm currently using the shoulder mobility suggestions made by Geoff in the KB strong book but wondered if there is more i could do.  Im also unsure as to whether shoulder mobility work should come before or after S&S practice.

Time constraints will become a factor week after next at which time S&S 6 days per week just won't be possible.  This is another reason for KB strong as I understand it is shorter less frequent sessions.

thanks again for your input I appreciate your experience.

Sean Schniederjan

Level 3 Valued Member
If you use a wall for the arm bar, you can move from the arm bar position into an overhead position seamlessly while respecting your ROM.

This explains how to do it:


Level 3 Valued Member
The pump stretch seems to be a forgotten resource as well as the 3 position doorway stretch. Also, I like to do the Bretzel and once that feels good on both sides, I let go of the top hand and lay that arm back on the ground at about 135 degrees. I think it gets more of the upper fibers of the pec than the arm bar.


Level 6 Valued Member
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
The basics to cover:

Breathing, soft tissue, thoracic spine extension and rotation, shoulder flexion

Try to address them in that order too

Nail diaphragmatic breathing, foam roll, traps, rhomboids, lats, triceps, pec/pec minor. Add in side lying rib pull, bretzels and any drills that focus on thoracic extension.

From there try to hammer drills that improve shoulder flexion while promoting a ribcage down position. The key is to lock down your lumbar spine first and foremost then address shoulder mobility. So stabilize the lumbar spine/pelvis then mobilize the upper body.

TGU's and arm bars will help but are just a piece of the puzzle





Level 2 Valued Member
Thanks for all the info.  I will give these a try.  Would these (foam roller exercises included) be best done before or after the S&S session, or on a separate day altogether?

Zach Ganska

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor

Arm bars, and any lift for that matter, will continue cementing the shoulder movement you currently have.  As mentioned an FMS is the best way to start the process of correcting your shoulder position.

I've had shoulder mobility issues for years and have finally caved and admitted to myself I won't improve upon my 1/2 BW military press until they are resolved.

It's a tricky bugger to resolve.  Once my T-spine mobility cleared up I've found that scapular position and stability needs to be corrected, followed lastly by Internal and External rotation at the glenohumeral joint itself.

I've been noticing how few (as in close to none) of my students have proper scapular position, thus they have limited rotation at the shoulder itself as they have no stabilization to keep the scapula properly depressed and retracted when trying to move the arm into internal/external rotation.

If there are FMS/SFMA practitioners in your area then feel free to email me and I'll see if I can be of any use to your progress.  A well-executed screen is essential to begin to determine the root cause(s) of this issue.

best of luck in your endeavor.

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
There may or may not be a simple answer - it depends on the issue(s) of course.

I wrote the following as a general primer for people looking to improve shoulder/t-spine mobility for squatting. Some ideas may be helpful for you:


Level 1 Valued Member
Reading this:

From there try to hammer drills that improve shoulder flexion while promoting a ribcage down position. The key is to lock down your lumbar spine first and foremost then address shoulder mobility. So stabilize the lumbar spine/pelvis then mobilize the upper body.

Made me think that this might be something to look into:

Club Swinging Essentials by Gray Cook


I have been club swinging for over a year and it has been added alot of mobility to my shoulders. The DVD by Gray are excellent!


Level 2 Valued Member
Great information, thanks!!

Zach, i've managed to find a practitioner in my area but the £85 screening cost is a little out my price range at the moment, although I am certain the the benefits would be worth the cost.

Taking on board all the advice, it sounds like step 1 is improving my T-spine mobility, which should then allow me to further develop my shoulder mobility.  Based on the advice, would a plan of

1. thoracic breathing

2. pump stretch

3. bretzel

4. shoulder dislocates

5. doorway stretch

6. foam roller work (will need to look into which are going to be best)

As mentioned initially, may aim is to start and get the most from KB strong.  As others receiving Geoff's regular e-mail's will notice, there has been recent referrals to trainees working with KB strong, with their progress improved once they also overcame their mobility issues.  I'm wondering whether starting KB strong 3 times per week, whilst implementing mobility work on in-between days be a sensible approach for me? Or if I would be better to stick with S&S 3-4 time per week plus mobility days?

After practicing some double pressing with 2x 24KG bells I would be 'comfortable' to work through the initial option in the book i.e. 10 x  1 C&P.

Big thanks in advance.



Level 1 Valued Member
Team Leader Certified Instructor
Certified Instructor

All the information provided is a very good way of improving your shoulder mobility.  The only problem is that your shoulder mobility may not be the underlying issue at hand which is causing your overhead issues.

I have worked with clients in the past who had issues with the overhead lockout and after performing a Functional Movement Screen, I found that shoulder mobility was not the issue.  It was something entirely different.  If you cannot get the FMS done then perform a self assessment screen and please provide your results here.

Then after your have performed the screen and you have determines that shoulder mobility is the issue then go right ahead along with your plan but make sure to reassess yourself regularly for progress.

IF the leg raise is an issue in the self assessment then go after this movement issue first as shoulder mobility is only as good as the foundation as it is set upon, which is proper pelvic alignment and stability.


Level 2 Valued Member
Thanks mark. Il work through the screen and post it on the forum. Very comprehensive advice, thanks.


Level 2 Valued Member
Done my FMS this morning and here are the results:


Functional movement screen results

Deep squat

Heels flat on the floor - pass
Feet parallel not sliding or rotating - pass
Hips below the knees - fail
Knees over feet - fail
No part of body or dowel touching door frame - fail


Result - FAIL


Hurdle step

Hips, knees and ankles aligned forward - pass
Dowel not dipping or touching doorway - pass
Little movement in spine - pass (although some movement to maintain balance)


Result - PASS


In-line lunge

Minimal upper body movement - fail (movement to balance)
Feet on tape - pass
Back knee touching heel of front foot - fail
Dowel not touching wall - fail
Dowel not tipping left or right - fail


Result - FAIL


Straight leg raise

Outside ankle bone clears doorframe - fail
Outside leg not moving - pass
Foot of outside leg pointing straight up - pass
Knee of outside leg extended with no flexion


Result - FAIL + PAIN (tightness in hamstring of raised leg)


Seated rotation

Dowel touches wall left and right - fail
Dowel is level and in contact with chest - pass
Spine remains straight and upright - pass


Result - FAIL


I think it is safe to say that I need to work on my overall mobility.  Gray talks about his book Athletic Body in Balance.  Would this be a recommended resource to improve my mobility? Also, I have just purchased a foam roller if this would be useful.


Thanks again for all of the information and advice.   It is clear that I have some overall mobility issues to address before I progress my training.  Ultimately my goal is strength, although with summer almost here, my short-term goal is to look good on the beach ; )


I look forward to the feedback.


Big thanks again to all.  StrongFirst is a truly great community!!


Level 6 Valued Member

First of all, I'm not a qualified FMS practioner, but I am familiar with the material.

Also, any pain should be properly assessed by a professional, that goes without saying.

It is my understanding (and I stand to be corrected) that it is ideal to work on the ASLR pattern before any others.

You could work the correctives for the trunk rotation deficiency at the same time as they're both floor based.

Most of this stuff is in Athletic Body in Balance, but it's still worth a look


Level 2 Valued Member
Thanks mike. That link looks pretty useful for improving shoulder mobility. I understand from the video that there is a certain order to work I.e. Leg raises, trunk twist, etc. but I'm unsure what the 'corrective' exercises for these would be? Is it simply a case of doing them until it improves?

Also, with relation to the pain in the leg raise, this is simply a tight hamstring kind of pain and not something I feel needs medical attention - I mentioned it only in the interest of giving the most information.

Big thanks!
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