Rugby Proof Your Shoulders Part 2 (Mobility)

The most often overlooked area for training the shoulders is mobility.  Mobility is not the most glamorous or exciting thing to do, but it is a necessity if you want to have strong healthy shoulders that can take hits and last for years on the rugby pitch. 

It is not common to see people making posts about hitting a PR with their mobility as you would see a deadlift PR and that’s fine. As rugby players, we think about lifting heavy and being explosive.  We don’t walk into a gym saying I am going crush that mobility workout today.  

If doing yoga is the last thing on your mind and it seems pointless.  Then you need to change your mindset about mobility and the importance of it.  Know this, the better the range of motion you have and the more open your joints become the stronger you will become.  When joints can’t move freely they lack their true strength potential.

Mobility work doesn’t take long and should be done every day just like brushing your teeth.  Plus when you start doing mobility work on a daily basis your body just feels better.  

When it comes to the shoulders the reason most people don’t have a full range of motion is due to tightness in the thoracic region which is your upper back.  Part of the reason everyone is tight is because of the daily habits of sitting, driving, computers, and phone. Needless to say this the thoracic area is something that needs attention in order to get full range in your shoulder.

Fix the thoracic area and you are good right?  Well not quite. Remember the shoulder is a very complex joint.  Other areas that need attention are the pectorals and all the many muscles that attach to the shoulder.  Now there are a ton of different things you can do to increase your mobility in these areas and if you did a search on the internet it would be overwhelming.  

When it comes to mobility work I like to work on movements that strengthen at the same time.  It’s that whole idea of getting more bang for your buck. If you have a kettlebell then you have access to a great tool that can really help open your shoulders.  The kettlebell allows you to put your shoulder through many ranges of motion that other tools do not allow.

Two of the best movements with a kettlebell for increasing mobility are the Turkish Get Up and Windmill.  In both of these movements, your shoulder will go through just about every range of motion there is in the shoulder. They not only increase your range of motion but they also help increase the stability of the joint and strengthen it.

Turkish Get Up


The turkish get up and windmill pretty much cover everything for mobility in the shoulder, but there are a couple of other movements with the kettlebell that are beneficial as well.  Such as halos and overhead carry.

Joints love circles as it increases blood flow and improves range of motion. This is exactly what halos do. Doing an overhead carry with a kettlebell will help stretch and relax the muscles around the shoulder.  You don’t even need to move just holding a kettlebell overhead will help increase your range of motion, stability, and strength in the shoulder.  

The reason I like the kettlebell so much for increasing the mobility in the shoulder is that it worked for me.  Like I said in the previous article (Rugby Proof Your Shoulders Part 1) I use to get many stingers in football and rugby.  Then I started lifting kettlebells and it forced my shoulder into positions that were uncomfortable for me at the time. Eventually, the range of motion in my shoulder improved and the stingers were no more.  

There are many other things you can do to help increase the range of motion in your shoulder such as yoga, ball, rings, clubs, dowel rod, etc.  Here are a few different things you can do to help increase your mobility in your shoulders.

Don’t think I didn’t forget about the thoracic area here is a great movement to help increase that range of motion in that area.  I call it a thoracic pullover. You place a foam roller underneath your back just below your lats. Your butt is on the ground. You grab a kettlebell and lower it to the ground and stop once your biceps get to your ears.  Hold there for a few and then raise your arms back while pushing your rib cage down.

Thoracic Pullover

Hanging is another great form of increasing mobility in the shoulders.  It also decompresses your spine, improves wrist and forearm strength, and stabilizes the shoulder.  Rolling a ball under your pectorals will also help increase the range of motion in your shoulders. Use something the size of a softball and lay on top it with placing the ball under your pectorals.  Roll the ball around until you find a tender spot. Hold there for a few and then go until you find another tender spot. Just keep repeating the process. After that lift your arm overhead you should feel a difference.  

Two yoga movements that are very good for increasing mobility in the shoulder and back are the down dog and up dog.  Two movements you can do with a dowel rod or a pvc pipe are shoulder dislocations and around the world. Both of these are great for increasing your range of motion in the shoulders.  

Shoulder Dislocations 

Around the World 

When it comes to training the shoulders there is a lot more to it than just doing some presses as you can see.  In rugby, you use your shoulders a lot and need them to be strong and healthy. Especially if you want to keep playing well into your 70’s.  I mean why not? What else are you going to do play bridge? Remember there needs to be a balance between pushing and pulling movements for the shoulder in all directions.  The pulling should always be more than the pushing.  

The best way to incorporate mobility movements into your routine is by putting them in the warm-up.  That way the shoulders will be open and ready for the strength movements that day. Just pick one or two mobility movements to add into your warm-up and that should be good.  Add these mobility exercises into your training along with the strength exercises and your shoulders will be rugby proof!

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