It’s incredibly common to have some shoulder issues when you are MMA training. Boxers, Thai Boxers, Jits, wrestling, every aspect of the MMA game brings with it some shoulder troubles. Unfortunately, this isn’t solely down to your MMA training. A lot of your shoulder/upper back issues are due to poor postural habits during every day events. When you have a slumped posture at work, rounded neck and shoulders when driving and sleep with too many pillows, your neck and shoulders are getting set into a rounded forward position.
Your body is an incredible machine that will adapt and grow to whatever demands you place on it. Unfortunately, it still does this with negative demands. When you sit, stand and generally move in a slumped over position, your body will become accustomed to that position. You’ll find in your upper body alone you’ll have tighter upper traps, tighter upper and lower chest muscles and biceps. While these muscles tighten, opposite muscles will become weaker, namely your lower traps, neck, mid back and triceps.
So how do we fix this?
Well, first and foremost it’s important to make a conscious effort to maintain a correct posture throughout the day. When walking, sitting, working and driving be sure to keep a straight spine, head high and shoulders back. Imagine the posture superman would take during these tasks and you’re going to get it right.
Training joint health, posture and mobility throughout the body is an ongoing process. There is no one exercise that will cure all your mobility issues. There are, however, a couple of exercises that you should definitely include in your warm-ups every time you train to aid with shoulder and upper back health.
You’ll need a light resistance band for these drills. Throw one in your bag and keep it with you every time you go to train, whether martial arts practice, cardio or weight training, be sure to include these drills and your shoulders will thank you!
The band pull-apart is a very popular exercise used by athletes and is commonly prescribed to improve overall shoulder health and for fixing poor posture.
When performing pull-aparts, be sure to keep you spine straight, stand tall and be sure that your shoulders are doing the movement. Use a light resistance band for these and stay in control of it throughout. Do not let the band “snap” you back. Keep your arms parallel to the ground during the entire movement.
The first movement is to perform the pull-aparts with your palms facing the ground.
The second movement is exactly the same, but your palms are turned up to the sky.
For the third movement, the band begins overhead with your palms facing forward. Keeping your arms locked, and bring them down until they are parallel with the ground. At this stage, your thumbs will be pointing upwards. Squeeze and really feel the contraction in the upper, center of your back. When you are doing this third movement, be sure to keep the band close to you throughout. Have it scrape the back of your head on the way down and up. The end point of the move is when the band touches the back of your neck.
What about the reps?
The resistance of the band should be pretty minimal. I like to hit 20 of each of the movements before training and again afterwards.
This is by no means a complete list of shoulder mobility exercises or drills. It is however, something that you can easily implement right away. The movements will take literally 5 minutes before and 5 minutes after training. These 10 minutes added into your routine will bring your posture back into line, awaken the muscles on the back of your body, increase your mobility and generally increase the health of your shoulders.