The benefits to this progression exercise are the following…
1. Got a tight neck or stiff upper back? These shoulder rolls are an excellent mobility drill to simultaneously strengthen and loosen the musculature around the upper back. They effectively strengthen weak links and balance out excessive tension in the area.
2. The shoulder blades float over your ribs/upperback and the ability to move them and control them in relation to your ribs is called scapulothoracic control. Mobility entails not only flexibility and strength but also CONTROL. Most people don’t have good control in this regard but practicing these progressions will improve it greatly.
3. This is a very visceral (internal) experience, as you don’t have eyes in the back of your head to see your shoulder blades, so you have to feel it out. This increased awareness allows you to manipulate the scapulae in ways that are very important for bodyweight exercises that call for specific scapular positioning.
4. They feel really good, especially in downward dog.
Progressions (do in both directions)
- Shoulder rolls while standing/sitting
- Shoulder rolls in incline plank (not shown in video)*
- Shoulder rolls on hands/knees
- Shoulder rolls in plank (not shown)
- Shoulder rolls in downward facing dog (advanced)
- Shoulder rolls in handstand (not shown)
* If you cannot do these shoulder rolls on hands and knees without bending your elbows, or if it’s simply too confusing and you can’t get the motion right, then try the shoulder rolls in incline plank (hands elevated on a counter). When you master it there, then you will find yourself better able to doing it on hands and knees.
These prone shoulder/scapular rolls make a great prerequisite before doing scapular rolls while hanging from a pull up bar which takes more strength and the force vectors are different cause gravity is in a different position. Anyway, hope you liked it!
Update: When you master those shoulder rolls, check out these advanced versions!
- Shoulder Rolls in Reverse Plank/Table Top
- One Arm Shoulder Rolls in Downward Dog
These advanced variations effectively increase the load/intensity which help to increase your shoulder shoulder strength, stability and mobility. The one arm variations can be quite helpful for strengthening up a weaker side (or at least discovering that one side is weaker). These are purely bodyweight exercises that don’t require any equipment. Throw them in your warm-up or cool down or anytime you feel like loosening up and feeling good.