by: Sean Masters CPT, CES, PES; Director of Rehab and Co-Founder
Sports injury rehabilitation and injury prevention have evolved so much since I have been in the field. Back in 2007, conventional wisdom told us that if you were an overhead athlete and your upper traps and pecs were tight, your best friends were two exercises: Pull Downs and Rows. That approach has changed quite a bit over the last eight years with the popularization of corrective exercise, strength and conditioning, and research dollars being allocated towards understanding vastly more about the movement.
We've now realized strengthening muscles like the Latissimus Dorsi (which, for many athletes, is already strong) without proper mobility techniques and movement priming, may be stoking the flames of dysfunction instead of putting it out. I have worked with thousands of athletes over the last decade and I have always been a steadfast proponent of having a solid warm-up and cool-down. It is my personal opinion that we set ourselves up physically for failure if we skip a specific warm up. I say “specific” because the warm-up must reflect the task ahead. For example, a kicker on the football field wouldn’t warm up by throwing the ol’ pigskin around, would he? That’s a negative, Ghost Rider. This approach to warming up might seem obvious, but it always seems to be overlooked.
Today, we are going to help you move better and perform better before your next overhead workout. I’m going to break down ‘3 Primers’ to help you reset the system prior to moving some serious LB’s or KG’s toward the sky. So let’s get to it!
Lat Foam Rolling
Let’s break down the overhead movement for a second. Say you are doing a strict overhead press with dumbbells. You start with the weight resting along the shoulders, and as you explode up, your arms (moving around the shoulder joint) go into flexion, abduction, and external rotation. All movements of the shoulder that the Latissimus Dorsi work against! The Lat, in terms of surface area, is one of the biggest muscles in the body. It pulls the scapula into depression, and extends and adducts the Humerus. Oh, and if your Lats are big enough, they also might help you fly. ☺
That being said, before we even add load to the movement, it’s crucial to set the body up for success by allowing the shoulder to go through an unrestricted range of motion. So grab your trusty roller, it's time to rock ‘n foam roll!!
Floor or Wall Angels
Before you move, patterns need to be grooved. Movement rehearsal (if you will) is vital to timing and performance... just look at any baseball player EVER getting ready to step up to the plate or golfer ready to bomb the ball down the fairway. Priming (as I like to call it), needs to be a principle of performance and yet, we never see it done in the weight room beyond starting with a lighter weight for a set of ten. If you do them correctly, Floor or Wall Angels may become your new best friend. At least on Overhead Press Day.
With the help of tactile feedback from the floor or wall, this exercise helps to promote extension in your Thoracic Spine, Posterior Tilting in your Scapula, External Rotation of your Shoulder, and even Cervical stability through movement. Yeah, it has awesome sauce poured all over it!
RKC Arm Bar
If you don't know the Arm Bar, then you better ask somebody! This is one of the best Rotator Cuff exercises that I have added into my warm-up and sports rehabilitation arsenal. By taking an off-center load (Kettle Bell) through an active range of motion (Arm Bar), it really forces the Rotator Cuff stabilizers to reflexively engage to promote and maintain joint centration, or optimal point of rotation of the Humeral Head (ball) within the Glenoid Fossa (socket). This exercise is great at sealing the foundation that is joint integrity. It wakes up the deep stabilizers like Paula Abdul and press the weight Straight Up!