The Overhead Squat, when done properly is a beautiful movement and is a huge component of the Snatch. With so many possible areas of limitation in your Overhead Squat, from hip mobility to core strength to shoulder stability, it is important to start with one or two points of correction and go from there. In this article, we will focus on shoulder flexibility to keep it simple and to the point. These movements take time and practice and if you can be patient and work with the right technique, you will be better off in the long run. Having a really good coach to help you spot areas for improvement is critical in taking your fitness to the next level.
As a society we tend to sit quiet a bit, and with a good amount of sitting comes inevitable slouching, and this lends itself to tightness in the front of the chest. Not only that but many of us before finding CrossFit focused mainly on chest and biceps further shortening those muscles. It is a very common issues for people starting out, especially as it relates to OHS. The exact muscles that need to be open enough to receive the weight in the correct and safest position with the shoulder externally rotated, arms extended and the eye of the elbow facing up towards the bar, are the ones that are in essence shortened by all that slouching. Think of when you are doing your shoulder roll-throughs, that tightness as you move the PVC pipe behind your head is the area of the chest and shoulders where most people have issues. Now, mobility in the shoulder girdle is not the only factor at play during an OHS with less than ideal form, but it is something to think about as you begin to dial in the areas that need improvement. Beyond the lift itself, have the flexibility to bail safely, with the option to throw the bar behind you, is also a critical aspect of this Olympic lift.
These 5 Post CrossFit Yoga Poses for Overhead Squats are not only great for after the WOD but are really helpful for improving mobility in the entire shoulder girdle as they include auxiliary muscles that aid in shoulder rotation and movement. As you start to move through each of these stretches, you will notice areas you feel more than others. You will want to spend more time focusing on those particular muscles. Stretch number 5, the Variation of Parsva Danurasana, is the stretch that directly targets the front of the chest and shoulders, just like your shoulder roll-throughs.
Realize that increasing flexibility in the shoulder girdle will take time and regular practice. These are just some of the ways you can increase your shoulder mobility. As always try different to find what works best for you.
*Tip: If you are not stretching post WOD then make sure to warm up a bit before you do these shoulders stretches. Spend 30-60 seconds or 10 breaths in each pose. Through the breathing, allow the body to relax, and settle into the stretch.
1. Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Dog Pose)
Start by sitting on the heels with the shins on the ground. Separate the feet, shins and knees about hips distance. Walk the hands forward until the hips are stacked over the knees. Continue to walk the hands forward without moving the hips until you feel a stretch in the chest and the side body/armpit area. With the forehead or chin on the ground (which ever is most comfortable on the neck), press the palms down and allow the chest to descend.
2. Gomukhasana Arms (Cow Face)
Start by sitting on the heels feet and shins together. Bend the right elbow and grab it with the left hand. Draw the right elbow in towards the midline, making sure that the right tricep is rolling forward. From here, reach the left arm around the back, palm facing out. Walk the left fingertips towards the right and claps them together if possible. If not, use a strap or band to modify. Breathe through the stretch then switch.
3. Criss-Cross Arms
Start by lying on your belly. Sit up onto your forearms. Thread the right arm through, under the left arm and to the left. Then walk your left arm out to the right until you’ve reached your limit. Allow the chin to fall towards the triceps as you relax the head down. Don’t forget to breathe! Switch sides after a minute or so.
4. Uttanasana with Clasp Hands
Start standing with the legs hips distance. Clasp the hands by the low back, extending the arms while keeping a soft bend in the elbow. On an exhale fold forward sending the hand up and over the head. Bend the knees if you need to, taking the hamstring out of the equation. *If clasping your hands behind your back is not accessible, use a strap or PVC pipe; widen the grip to a place where you can fold forward.
5. Variation of Parsva Dhanurasana
Start by lying flat on your belly. Extend your right arm out to the right palm down. Bend the elbow, making a 90-degree angle. Walk the palm forward 2-3 inches so your elbow is now slightly higher than the shoulder. Bend the elbow more so that now the palm is angled slightly towards the head. With the shoulder relaxed down, slowly on an exhale start to roll onto your right side. Use the left palm as leverage and ground it near the chest. Hold and then switch sides.