Exercises You Should Be Doing: Forearm Wall Slides

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It’s been a while since I’ve done an “exercises you should be doing” segment, so I figured with all of our pro-baseball guys making their way back to the facility to start their off-season it would be prudent to delve into some of the exercises we incorporate as far as shoulder health is concerned. 

It’s no surprise that many of our guys come in  pretty banged-up, and as such, a lot of what we do within the first 3-4 weeks is to help correct many of the (predictable) bumps, bruises, and muscular imbalances that tend to accumulate over a long competitive season.

Truth be told, though, we use many of these same drills with much of our general population/weekend warrior clients as well.  I mean, when all is said and done, developing a short/stiff pec minor, dominate upper traps and levator, not to mention weak upward rotators (lower traps, serratus anterior) – all of which lend themselves to a shoulder that’s not too happy – aren’t just a problems we see in baseball players.  We see them is basically everyone!

Compound the above with poor t-spine mobility and movement quality, and you’ve got youself a recipe for disaster.

Of course, not every shoulder is the same, and there are other “outside of the box” modalities that we can explore to help improve overall function.  One of the more interesting ones to consider is breathing patterns – which is something we’ve been looking more and more into since incorporating some of the PRI (Postural Restoration Institute) philosophy into our programming. 

Without getting into the particulars – because honestly, at times, Klingon makes more sense to me – we tend to be chest breathers.  What I mean by this is that, more often that not, when asked to take a DEEP breath (or any breath for that matter), most people will end up inflating their chest.  As a result, the scalenes, levator, and upper traps become very “tonic” and nasty.

Moreover, as we continue to do this day in and day out, with upwards of 15,000-20,000 breaths per day, we tend to develop a left rib flair, which in turn, changes what’s known as our Zone of Apposition, which then throws a monkey wrench into things and affects how our diaphragm functions.

I’m getting a little a head of myself, but needless to say, just by making a concerted effort to work with one’s breathing patterns, we can make a profound effect on his or her shoulder function.  As an a side, it’s not uncommon for us to “find” 5-10 degrees of extra internal rotation in a right-handed pitcher just by focusing on breathing patterns alone for a few minutes.  I’m not gonna say it’s Jedi mind-trick territory, but it’s pretty close.

Anyhoo, like I said, I’m getting a head of myself.  For many people out there reading, it doesn’t have to be quite that in depth, and there are a lot of simple (albeit effective) exercises you can do that will undoubtedly help improve overall shoulder function, and keep you healthy in the long-term. 

Namely I’m referring to forearm wall slides, which is an exercise that I covered in detail in Muscle Imbalanced Revealed – Upper Body (just sayin).

What Does It Do:  This is an excellent execise that works not only the scapular retractors, but also the lower traps which play a VERY important role in scapular upward rotation – which is kind of a big deal when talking about overhead athletes.  Not coincidentally, though, the lower traps tend to be woefully weak/inhibited in just about everyone.   Yes, this includes you.

Key Coaching Cues:  standing roughly 2-3 inches away from the wall, begin by pinching your shoulder blades together (scapular retraction……or, for the functional anatomy nerds out there, scapular adduction).  From there place your forearms flush against the wall and gradually “slide” them upwards.  The key here is to NOT use your upper traps and to focus on keeping the shoulder blades depressed.  Go as high as you can – again, without shrugging – and then return back to the starting position and repeat the same sequence for 8-10 reps.

To kick it up a notch, you can also perform forearm wall slides – to 135 degrees (scapular plane).  

The set-up will be roughly the same, except here, you’ll slide your arms out to 135 degrees.  Goddamit what did I say about shrugging?????????  You never listen to me. 

I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to yell.  It’s just, it’s almost like I’m talking to a brick wall sometimes.

Anyways, once at the top, retract your shoulders back making sure NOT TO COMPENSATE WITH LUMBER EXTENSION!!!!!

As such, I like to cue people to squeeze their glutes while doing this variation to maintain more of a posterior pelvic tilt.

Return back to the starting position, and perform 8-10 repetitions.

Ideally, I’d probably use these as part of a general warm-up, but they’d also be money to use as a filler exercise between sets of squats or something.

Try them out today, and let me know what you think!

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