During your quest for a heavier bench and bigger pecs, you have to put a lot of time in on your pushing motions. But the downside is that all the compression, internal rotation, and lack of pulling can give you a junky shoulder and hamper your gains. To make matters worse, a bum shoulder can affect the way you grip the bar during your back squat. So you want to address any lack of range of motion so that all your lifts are strong and pain-free.

There is a way to make your shoulder mobility better. You’re going to learn some of the more neglected movements from your training and get your shoulders mobile again. That said, we’re going to look at two areas to work on to help you with your shoulder mobility and demonstrate some exercises to help with it as well. Having said that, let’s look at an abridged version of some basic shoulder anatomy.


What you need to know

For our purposes, we’re going to look at the scapula (shoulder blades) and the humerus (upper arm). The motions of which are as follows:



  • Elevation— if you do a barbell shrug, for instance, your scapulae have to elevate, and your trapezius muscles facilitate this motion.
  • Depression— in a deadlift, scapular depression is a passive action, as is standing with your arms by your side. When you perform a dip or a pull-up, scapular depression becomes an active motion. Your lats are a big player in scapular depression, along with your rhomboids.
  • Protraction— this is the forward movement of the scapula produced by your serratus anterior. In powerlifting and the training around it, you don’t do this often. For one thing, if you’re benching, you want to minimize the movement of the bar to get a complete lift. The judge is looking for you to lock out the bar, not how far forward your scapulae move, so you train it as such. This leads us to
  • Retraction— when you squat and bench, you squeeze your shoulder blades together to rest the bar and get tight. Accomplished by the rhomboids and the trapezius, you also get a lot of extra work on these muscles in training your accessory movements, like your barbell and dumbbell rows.
  • Upward and downward rotation— Upward rotation aids in putting your hands over your head, and downward rotation helps bring them back down to our sides. Examples include military presses for upward rotation and dips for downward rotation.
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