Overhead Mobility Masterclass with Lucy Thomson

This blog edition has been prepared in collaboration with Lucy Thomson (@lifestylelucypt). Lucy is a rising star on the London health and fitness scene. She is a qualified personal trainer, foodie, blogger (www.lifestylelucy.net) and a health and fitness editor to boot.  

Over the series of 5 short videos I am going to offer some great drills for improving shoulder mobility and more importantly, your performance when it comes to snatch and clean and jerk. 


Foam Roller

This is a simple exercise to work the Teres Major and Minor. These muscles run on the lateral border of the shoulder blade. 

Position the foam roller in that lateral border of the shoulder blade and slowly move the foam roller into different spots whilst slowly moving the arm up and down. No longer than 20 seconds on each side is proven to be the optimal time to foam roll.

Next move slightly further down and do a little soft tissue work on the lats, this large muscle which runs along the back. Again, softly position on the foam roller and roll up and down 4-6 inches whilst raising the arm.


Overhead Opener 

The overhead opener is one of our favourite movements to improve an athletes overhead mobility. Do this exercise using a racked barbell or against a wall or plyo box.

Placing hands on the plyo box, push the hips back and move the head through the arms. Focussing on keeping the upper back fully extended, drop the head through the arms whilst actively trying to pull oneself further down using the upper back muscles.


Lifts Offs 

Yesterday’s Overhead Opener leads nicely into the “lift off” exercises. 

Each variation actively works the upper back and lower lat muscles. First up is the Foam Roller Lift Offs. Keeping the right forearm on the ground roll out with the left arm, reaching out, dropping the shoulder down, and lifting off as far as possible. 

Notice how all the motion comes from the shoulder and there is no rotation in the spine. Every time reset, roll back out and roll back in. 

Next up is Dowel Lift Offs which are great for challenging the last degrees of shoulder elevation. Use a light resistance band attached to a dowel.

It is important to remember to keep the abs and glutes tight to prevent extension of the spine. Lying face down, arms over head, actively try and lift the shoulders as high up as possible while keeping the forehead down, butt and abs squeezed.

Avoid extending the spine, making sure all that motion comes from the shoulders.


Z Press

To begin, sit upright with legs straightened out in front. If hamstrings are tight, bend the knees and bring legs in.

With a barbell in front rack position, push press, focussing on getting the head through at the top, and keeping the chest upright (pause at the top). That is going to challenge ability to maintain thoracic extension throughout and activate shoulder mobility. Really try and stay tall as if being pulled up by a bit of string. 

If you don’t have the flexibility to raise the barbell overhead you can do this exercise with single arms kettle bells instead.


Thoracic Spine

The Brettzel is a nice and easy mobility exercise. Lying on our side, take the top leg and bend so flexed to 90 degrees. The bottom hand is going to be on top of the knee to keep that knee flat on the ground. 

Then bend the bottom leg behind the body and reach with the top hand and grab that foot. As we exhale, pull that bottom foot towards the butt and use the back leg to rotate the thoracic spine. And reset. (repeat). Exhale into the stretch and inhale as we relax.