Pull, push, hang, swing, press and support are all words that describe the role of the shoulder joint in functional-fitness movements. The unique anatomical structure of the shoulder allows us to load this joint in a wide variety of positions without dislocation. Unlike the hip joint, the shoulder joint doesn’t have a deep socket or ligaments to keep the humeral head (the round part of the upper arm bone) within the shallow glenoid cavity (part of the shoulder blade). This means the joint is less stable. But what we loose in stability, we gain in greater range of motion. This is why we’re able to perform movements like the butterfly pull-up or toes-to-bar.
Depending on the movement being performed, different groups of muscles contribute more than others. For example, when we do a strict pull-up, the latissimus dorsi (lats) should be the primary mover as we pull the elbows down. When we press palms down to straighten the arms during our handstand push-ups, we use the deltoids. Because of the varied nature of daily WODs, when we think about shoulder mobility, we should think globally, not locally. Yes, there are certain places to target after specific movements, but we should think of the overall health of the shoulder first, and then focus on smaller areas when necessary.
The list below of WOD Recovery Yoga stretches is recommended after any WOD that involves the bar or rings. All these stretches plus much more can be found in the WOD Recovery Yoga e-book.
Tips for Stretching Post-WOD
- Let your heart rate slow down and your breathing return to normal. Give your muscles a chance to relax to prevent cramping.
- Find a slow breathing pattern in and out through the nose.
- If something is painful (the kind of pain that feels like you might hurt yourself), back off and move on. Pain does not equal gain when you stretch.
Clasped-Hand Forward Fold
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Clasp your hands by your lower back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, keeping a slight bend in your elbows, and on your exhale, fold forward. Bring your hands up and over your head, focusing on the stretch in the shoulders. Breathe in this stretch for up to a minute, allowing gravity to slowly open your shoulders. Use a band, if necessary, but when you do, keep your palms facing each other as you fold forward.
Downward Facing Dog Side Stretch
Start in Plank pose, then shift your hips back into Downward Facing Dog and walk your feet forward 2 inches. Place your feet hips-distance apart and your hands shoulder-width apart. The first finger of each hand should point forward to turn your hands out slightly. Bend your knees slightly, press through the palms as if to push the mat away. Send your outer hips up, keeping your spine long. Feel your tailbone extend toward the ceiling, then straighten your legs. Draw both heels over to the right side so your feet become parallel with the back of the mat. Keep your hips high as you press down through your left palm, elongating the left side of your body. Breathe in this position for approximately 30 seconds and then switch.
Start either in a kneeling or standing position. Bring your right biceps underneath your left triceps. Wrap your right hand around, trying to reach for your left palm. Then, relaxing your shoulders, lift your elbows off your chest and move your hands away from your face. Round your upper back and draw your chin into your chest. Press the space between your shoulder blades back to deepen the stretch in the upper back. Relax and breath in this stretch for two minutes, then switch sides.
Start by lying on your belly, then sit up onto your forearms. Thread your right arm under your left arm and walk your left arm out to the right until you’ve reached your limit. Move your body forward so you are laying more on top of the triceps. Allow your chin to fall toward your triceps as you relax your head down. Slowly breathe in and out through your nose, relaxing your shoulders, neck and chest. Switch sides after a minute or so.
Start in a prone position lying on your belly. Bend your right elbow with your palm flat on the ground. Looking at your right palm for reference, bring your elbow up so that it is a little higher than your right shoulder. Walk your right hand out to the right a few inches to open the angle of your elbow. Place your left palm on the ground, and on an exhale, roll onto your outer right hip. Relax your head down. Make adjustments as needed, but this stretch should be felt in the front of your chest and shoulder. After about 30 seconds in this stretch, slowly release by coming back onto your belly, then switch sides.
Start seated with your feet on the ground and hips-distance apart. Your toes are pointing forward and your hands are behind you. Your fingers are pointing toward your heels. Slightly turn your hands out so that your first fingers point forward. Extend your hips up and ground through your heels. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift the front of your chest (sternum) up and feel the collarbones widen. Keep your head neutral and gaze up. To deepen the stretch, shift your hips forward, opening the front of your chest and shoulders.
Cow Face Arms
Start by sitting on your heels with your feet and shins together. Bend your right elbow and grab it with your left hand. Draw your right elbow in toward your midline (in line with the back of your head), making sure that your right triceps is rolling forward. From here, reach your left arm around your back, palm facing out. Internally rotate your left shoulder. Walk your left fingertips toward your right and claps them together, if possible. If your fingertips don’t touch, use a strap or band to modify. Breathe through the stretch and then switch after about 30 seconds.