This blog post was written by Mary Dimmick, RD, MS, CPT, CES, and FreeMotion Master Coach. You can learn more about Mary HERE.
A lot of people overlook shoulder strength and flexibility in their training. However, improved flexibility and strength in our shoulders can lead to an increased range of motion around the shoulder joints, as well as resistance to fatigue and injury. By dedicating some time to the shoulders, you can improve your ability to perform anything from everyday movements like putting the groceries away to advanced, compound weight-lifting exercises such as heavy squats, push-ups, and pull-ups.
Check out this list of six RIP:60 exercises that allow you to focus on effectively increasing shoulder flexibility and strength. Perform all of the provided exercises in a circuit for 2 to 4 sets, repeating the strength exercises 8 to 12 repetitions, and holding the stretch exercise for the designated amount of seconds. You may also pick and choose the exercises you feel are most appropriate and applicable for your individual needs.
Keep in mind that the RIP:60 straps also allow you to keep your core and legs engaged as you complete your shoulder work, which leads to improved proprioception and a relatively nice boost in caloric burn. As with any exercise, good form is key for optimal results and to avoid injury. If you are not sure what you are doing, or if you are feeling any soreness in your neck during or after the exercises, I strongly suggest you seek out the supervision of a trained professional.
Starting Position for First 4 Exercises
Lean back with your entire weight supported by the RIP:60 straps in a “low-load” position—somewhat close to standing upright. Your arms should be straight and palms facing each other. Be sure that you have a neutral spine and that your core is braced with a neutral pelvis (doesn’t tilt forward or backward). As you perform the exercises, be absolutely sure to maintain a braced core, as using the RIP:60 straps is also a great opportunity to work on strengthening your deep intrinsic core muscles. Also, do your very best to maintain a relaxed neck, which is easy to achieve when your shoulders are pulled down and back by the muscles of your back
Begin in the starting position. With straight arms, take a moment to retract your shoulders and feel the muscles of your mid-upper back contract. Next, flare the elbows out to the side to make 90-degree angles in your elbow. Meanwhile, rotate your palms to face forward. Really focus on “squeezing a pencil” between your shoulders blades and keeping your shoulders away from your ears. At the peak of the contraction, the orientation of your arms to head will resemble the letter “W”. As you return to the starting position, be sure to keep your shoulders down and back, and your neck relaxed as you straighten your arms and rotate your palms to return to the starting position.
Begin in your starting position. Again, take a moment to retract your shoulders, without notably bending the elbows. Squeeze that pencil between your shoulder blades as you develop tension behind the shoulders and upper back. Then, to perform the movement, lift your arms straight up into a “Y” position, keeping the RIP:60 strap in full tension the entire time (don’t let it fall loose between you and the anchor point). As you return to the starting position, focus really hard on keeping your shoulders down and back, and your neck relaxed as you straighten your arms and rotate your palms to face each other at the starting position.
Assume the starting position, which might need to be slightly further away from your anchor than you will be for the “W” and “Y”, since smaller muscle groups will be targeted. Keep tension on the straps the entire time. Tightly contract your lats down with upper back muscles in, and serratus anterior to lift your hands straight up into the air, with only a very small gap between your ears and the RIP:60 strap. Palms need to face forward at the top of the contraction. If you feel excessive strain in your neck, you might need to tuck your chin slightly toward your chest in order to lengthen the upper trapezius and enable the shoulders to drop down a little more (with conscious effort). Return to your starting position keeping your neck relaxed and back muscles tense.
- Reverse Fly
From the starting position, contract your rhomboids by retracting your shoulders and squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades before driving your mostly straight arms out to the side, keeping the RIP:60 strap in tension. Drive your arms out as far as you can until they are level with your body. Take time to feel muscles such as your lats, mid-back muscles, and posterior deltoid (NOT your neck). Activate then lean backward and control your straight arms back to the starting position. If you find you cannot complete this with 1) straight arms, then “soft” elbows are OK. Just do not actively bend the elbow. Or 2) without arching your back, then step away from the anchor point just a little more, even if you are almost fully upright at the starting position.
- Overhead Chest Stretch
Begin facing away from your anchor point and assume a staggered stance with your arms up, framing your head, and elbows bent to 90 degrees. Shift forward slowly in your stance until you can lift your chest up to achieve the stretch throughout your chest muscles and anterior deltoid. It is very important that you hold a gentle stretch with your neck relaxed, shoulders down, abdominals braced, and pelvis in a neutral position. If possible, your hands should be tilted slightly behind your body, and elbows tilted slightly forward. I usually have my clients switch legs after holding the first stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Overhead Squat
Begin by sliding the handlebars up the foot carriages so that you are working with the soft material. Place your hands in the foot carriage, with the material on the back of your hand (not your palm). Lift your arms straight in the air, as with the “I” exercise, and adjust your stance to be hip width apart. The RIP:60 straps should be fully in-tension as you press back on the foot carriages with your hands above your head.
Once you are in a completely upright position underneath the tense RIP:60 straps, perform a squat keeping your hands directly above your head. If you find your arms pulling forward, or your torso hinging forward, you might be leaning back too much. You may also try not going as low until you are able to keep your hands straight up above your head.