Safe Shoulders: Using the Shoulder Complex to Maintain Flexibility and Mobility
Shoulder pain sucks. Lack of mobility sucks. Inflexible shoulders sucks. Especially when you’re a triathlete. You use your shoulders in every discipline. Think about it… In swimming, you use your shoulder strength to propel yourself forward. In biking, your legs may be doing most of the “work”, but it’s the core and shoulders that are supporting you and providing balance. Even in the run, your shoulders should be relaxed and should not impinge on the swing motion of the arms.
The shoulder joint structure (ball and socket joint) makes it ideal for flexibility, but keeping it mobile while building the muscle needed to support you through biking and swimming can be tricky.
Over the years, I’ve learned of a technique called the ‘Shoulder Complex’ that my athletes perform to keep that flexibility.
Performing the shoulder complex (explained and shown below) is fairly easy, but you should not feel any undue pressure from straining to “touch the wall” each time. Remember, this (as with any flexibility movement) is about progress, not perfection.
Here's how to perform the shoulder complex:
1. Stand with your feet, butt, shoulders, and head against the wall
2. Place your arms straight out laterally, bend upward 90 degrees, then rotate bent arms downward. Rotate again upwards and downwards. Repeat 12 to 15 times.
3. Reach upward so your arms are straight up. Lower to the "bent upwards" position in Step 2. Repeat 12 to 15 times.
Check out this video to see how it's done:
Coach Becky Piper is a USA Triathlon Certified Level 1 Triathlon Coach, Paratriathlon Coach, and Cycling Coach. She is currently on her way to Michigan but has made a little stopover in Wisconsin to see friends and family while her husband Sam is serving in the military. Her dog, Gunner, is with her on the long adventure across the country. She is the reigning national champion in the Time Trial and Road Race in women’s C2 Paracycling and is preparing for her debut in the Paralympic Trials, but her true passion is coaching. Coach Becky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.