As any seasoned weightlifter would know, maintaining healthy and mobile joints is essential for performance and injury prevention. The most common injuries for weightlifters are the spine, shoulder and knee (1) and hence maintaining healthy movements in these areas should be a priority. This article is part 1 of 2 and will focus primarily on mobility. There is a mobility program attached at the bottom of the article.
Regional Interdependence (RI) is a key concept that provides us with some foundational understanding of biomechanics. RI states that joints throughout the body are reliant on the structure and function of the adjacent regions. For example, the knee’s ability to function optimally is dependent on the function of the hip (joint above) and ankle (joint below). If we lack stability or mobility at either the hip or the ankle (a common occurrence in weightlifters) the knee cannot function properly and may get injured.
So how does this apply to the shoulder? The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, meaning it has a lot of range of motion and has the capability of moving in many different planes. Weightlifters essentially live in the overhead position and this is where most of the high forces on the shoulder joint are experienced. For the shoulder to function optimally it needs the scapula and thoracic spine to be mobile enough to get the arm in good positions to recieve heavy weights.
When it comes to mobility we can differentiate between joint mobility and muscle flexibility. Typically, the joints that are limited for the weightlifter are the thoracic spine and glenohumeral joint. The latissimus dorsi (Lat), pec minor, pec major and bicep are commonly the muscles that lack flexibility and limit overhead positions.
Like strength training, to improve mobility we need to stay consistent and put in the reps over months and years. Unlike strength training, to get the most out of our flexibility and mobility we want to remain soft and relaxed throughout the body (think yoga). Breathing slowly and deeply and trying to soften into the exercises will help you get those results quicker. Below is a mobility program I commonly use with weightlifters and crossfitters for developing their shoulder mobility.
References:Aasa, U., Svartholm, I., Andersson, F., & Berglund, L. (2017). Injuries among weightlifters and powerlifters: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med, 51(4), 211-219.