Sports Medicine

Self-Myofascial Release for Shoulders

Pressing Opener

Clear up creaky shoulder issues and start pushing more weight over your head with these simple moves.

By Jeff Alexander

Have you ever wished you could take your arms off when you sleep? If you train hard, you know what it’s like to have stiff and painful shoulders, and maybe even a full-blown injury. Shoulder joints are tricky. They get hurt easily and heal slowly.

Self-myofascial release (SMR) can help clear up mobility issues in your shoulders that lead to impaired movement and eventual injury. Be aware that SMR can border on being painful. On a pain scale of one to 10, SMR should feel like a six to eight (a “hurts so good” feeling). The best part of SMR is that it provides near-instant feedback. If you’ve done it right, you’ll immediately feel a little better. If you’ve done it wrong, you’ll know it, too. Your muscles will be tighter instead of being more fluid. If you do feel worse after a bout of SMR, get a medical diagnosis to avoid further injury.

Practice the techniques shown here to relieve knots and restrictions so you can more easily raise your arms overhead instead of fighting limitations in your muscles in addition to the bar you’re lifting. After performing these moves you should notice a greater ease when raising your arms, and your elbows should get closer to your ears when you’re in an overhead position.

Always do a “systems check” after performing an SMR technique. Take your arm or neck through some long, slow, full-range stretches. If you have greater ease with movement, you’ll know you are on the right track. If you were too aggressive with the amount of pressure, then you will likely feel even tighter. If that’s the case, back off to lighter pressure with more of a stroking movement.

Addressing your muscular discomforts with five to 10 minutes a day of SMR is like brushing and flossing your teeth. If done regularly, it prevents little issues from becoming big problems.

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