Full Range of Shoulder Motion

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Are we getting everything we can from upper body work in the gym?

So many of us think that the available movement at our shoulders is just about how far we can move our arm. And sometimes this is all we take into consideration when working our upper bodies in the gym or rehabbing a shoulder.

BUT! The movement at the shoulder actually has a whole lot to do with the movement of the scapula or shoulder blades. This scapulohumeral rhythm is extremely important for good shoulder function and could be a fundamental movement we miss in our rehab.


Think about a single arm dumbbell bent over row;

Video 1: shoulder blade locked back and just movement of arm
Video 2: shoulder blade and arm moving separately
Video 3: both the shoulder blade and arm moving together through their full range

The first video shows a lack of concentric and eccentric use of muscles such as rhomboids, middle trapezius and serratus anterior. These muscles are switched on isometrically (statically) but are not being taken through their range. The second video breaks the movement down and shows that the scapula protracts and retracts (moves forward and backwards) which takes these muscles through range of motion. In the third video the movements have been integrated and there is much more control happening of the full available range of the shoulder complex in one fluid motion. We can translate this to different movements, including overhead movements such as lat pulldowns, and pull ups.

Consider how important control of this extra range of motion would be for someone who plays footy and punches overhead, or someone who plays cricket and bowls? They need to be able to have control of their whole shoulder complex in all sorts of positions.

If you are trying this for the first time, don’t use weights, just feel how your shoulder blades move around your rib cage. Then see how you could implement this in the gym – try breaking it down like in video 2 first, then integrate the movements like in video 3.

Lauren Osborne


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