Guest post by Dr Kickass, Mike Piekarski, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Former MMA Fighter, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt. Follow him on instagram.
The most common complaint I hear on the mat is people complaining about shoulder stiffness. Especially if you are a late tapper to kimuras. Most often when someone has stiff shoulders from jiu jitsu it’s because they lack the STABILITY not mobility.
Shoulder stability comes from the rotator cuff muscles. The job of these muscles is to stabilize the humeral head in the glenoid fossa while the prime movers, such as the deltoids, move the arm.
Here are two intermediate exercises I give my patients to improve shoulder stability. Both utilize the kettlebell bottoms up position where you have to keep the kettlebell upright.
1) KB shoulder press. The half kneel position helps to minimize excessive thoracic extension while trying to get full range. Make sure to lightly contract your abdominal muscles to maintain upright posture.
2) KB “armbar”: As someone who does jiu jitsu I hesitate to refer to an exercise as an armbar. Press the kettlebell up and rotate on your side. Maintain each position for several seconds before adjusting.
Remember these muscles are stabilizers not prime movers so initially focus on lighter loads and high volume.
Overhead movement is dependent on having adequate mobility for the 4 joints in the shoulder complex + thoracic spine.
Here is one joint mobilization I use to improve overhead motion. This technique is used to distract the glenohumeral joint from the glenoid fossa as well as stretching the lat muscle. I prefer to use a mobility band so there is some stretch. Note: I try to relax my hand and arm as much as possible and just loop my hand through to get a sufficient enough distraction force. Use a gentle pull and stop when you feel the shoulder open up. Stop if there is pain and if you feel pain after you pulled too much.
After you improve your shoulder range of motion make sure to perform end-range isometric contractions and full active overhead motion to teach your body how to use the new available range.
I would not use this mobilization for any of my patients who have shoulder instability, “looseness” or history of shoulder dislocations.