Shoulder Stretches for Gymnasts
The shoulder is a complex ball-in-socket joint that is capable of moving in a variety of directions. Because of this, shoulders can often be damaged through dynamic activities and sports, including gymnastics. More so than most athletes, high-level gymnasts rely on shoulder health, flexibility and stability to maintain proper form while executing their maneuvers, but injuries and tendonitis can pile up. Understanding what causes shoulder issues in the first place, stretching the joints properly and strengthening your shoulders will make a world of difference for your comfort in gymnastics training.
Causes of Pain
Gymnastics is a sport that can be hard on your joints, especially a complex joint like the shoulder. Fast movements that pull the ball out of its socket temporarily or result in a small tear in the rotator cuff can cause lasting damage that piles up if it's not addressed properly. Additionally, tight pectoral and lat muscles can put increased strain on the shoulders, making them more susceptible to tightening up and getting injured.
A simple and effective stretch for both shoulders is the wall stretch. Place your hands against a wall at shoulder height and extend your elbows. Making sure your hips are parallel to the wall, press down with your shoulders and lean toward the wall. Your head and shoulders should now dip below your hands during the stretch. Hold the stretch for about five seconds and release. If you want to make the stretch deeper, move your feet farther from the wall.
If you have a serious shoulder injury, the bridge stretch isn't the way to go, but it's a great way to relieve tension in the muscles of the shoulders, back and abdominals at the same time. Lie on the floor and place your hands above your head and flat on the ground, fingers pointing toward your feet. Raise yourself into a bridge position and push forward with your feet to lean your head forward and stretch your shoulders.
Strength and Stability
Stretching is important, but properly strengthening and stabilizing your shoulders can prevent injuries and tightness from creeping in again. Shoulder-blade presses against a wall in various positions will work your stabilizing muscles. To strengthen the shoulder in all directions, use a resistance band to perform the I pull, T pull and Y pull. For the I pull, begin with your hands out straight, grasping each end of the band. Pull the band straight down with your arms locked and end with your hands down by your sides, then mimic the shape of a T and a Y with your hand positions for the other two exercises. Do three sets of 10 to 15 pulls with each exercise.
Steven Kelliher is an experienced sports writer, technical writer, proofreader and editor based out of the Greater Boston Area. His main area of expertise is in combat sports, as he is a lifelong competitor and active voice in the industry. His interviews with some of the sport's biggest names have appeared on large industry sites such as ESPN.com, as well as his own personal blog.