Importance of overhead mobility for weightlifting and throwing sports

Importance of overhead mobility for weightlifting and throwing sports

The shoulders are the most mobility joint in the body. The shoulder is made with a “ball in socket joint” and is held together by four small muscles of the rotator cuff. The shoulder should be able to move 180 degrees overhead ( shoulder flexion ).

Many weightlifting exercises and sports involve lifting or throwing overhead. Overhead motions such as throwing, hitting and object overhead or lifting a weight overhead are the most stressful motions on the shoulder. These movements create more tension and force on the shoulder joint than other shoulder movements, increasing the risk of injury with improper form or a lack of mobility.

A lack of shoulder overhead mobility, can cause compensations in your lifting or throwing technique, which could cause injury or place strain on other muscle groups. Additionally, a lack of overhead shoulder mobility can contribute to pain in the neck or shoulder. Staying mobile in the shoulders is important for any sports, exercises that involve overhead motions, or overall shoulder health.

A lack of mobility in the shoulder joint when raising the arm overhead can be caused by multiple factors including, tightness in the muscles of the shoulder itself or a lack of mobility in the thoracic spine ( upper back ). Stretches and mobility exercises can help improve mobility in the thoracic spine and shoulder. They are also an important part of any shoulder warm up routine.


 Thumb to Wall Test: this test can be used to measure shoulder mobility. You should be able to touch the wall for full shoulder mobility. 

Thumb to Wall Test: this test can be used to measure shoulder mobility. You should be able to touch the wall for full shoulder mobility. 

How to test your overhead shoulder mobility?

Thumb to Wall Test: With your black pressed against a wall, you should be able to comfortably get your thumb to the wall, without needing to arch your back.

If you have difficulty with this movement, a physiotherapist or kinesiologist can help improve your range of motion.


What causes a lack of overhead shoulder mobility?

A lack of overhead mobility could be caused by:

  1. A lack of thoracic mobility (mobility of the mid/upper back)

  2. A lack of mobility in the shoulder joint itself


How to create perminant improvement in overhead mobility

It is importance to have a balance between mobility and stability in the shoulder joint. Mobility exercises need to be paired with stability exercises to improve the strength of the shoulder joint in it’s increased range of motion.

Stretches and mobility exercises are effective at achieving a greater range of motion in the shoulder. These improvements in range of motion will not be permanent unless your body learns how to activate and use that muscle in its new range of motion. Your body will not maintain or keep, new ranges of motion achieved by stretching without activation and use of the muscle in its full range of motion.

In addition to stretching, it is important to strengthen the shoulder stabilizer muscles.


What are the shoulder stabilizers

  1. The rotator cuff muscle group - this muscle group acts as a suction cup to help hold your humerous bone, tightly into the shoulder joint. They are also in charge of internally and externally rotating your shoulder

  2. The scapula ( shoulder blade ) stabilizer muscles - All movements of the shoulder, involve the coordinated movement of the scapula ( shoulder blades ). The scapula stabilizer muscles help control the movements and position of the shoulder blades. Strong scapular stabilizer muscles, help improve overall shoulder health.

Achieving a functional increase in range of motion, takes time and practice. Our team would love to help. Click the button below to book an appointment or give us a call to help improve shoulder mobility and shoulder strength.

Check our the video below for our top three exercises for thoracic mobility.


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