Your shoulders may be a “small” muscle, but they’re vital to your in-gym performance (and life). Together, your shoulder muscles and shoulder joint control your arms and allow them to move overhead, out to your side, and in front and behind you. Over time, the shoulders can accumulate a lot of wear and tear — which is why a thorough warm-up is imperative for any lifter taking on a challenging workout like, say, a CrossFit WOD.
We consulted Jim Smith, the owner of Diesel Strength & Conditioning and the co-founder of the CPPS certification. Below, he outlines a routine — consisting of supersets — to prime the shoulders, raise your body temperature, and prepare your muscles for lifting and intense movement.
You’ll notice that Smith’s program includes a tool called the RomRod — a collapsible and portable rod that you can press, squat, swing, and lift to prep the body for a workout. A tool like the RomRod allows you to open your shoulder blades, keep your arms and torso aligned as you rotate side-to-side, and keep your arms extended overhead as you squat to depth.
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Below, you’ll find a series of supersets that combine mobility drills using the RomRod with strength-training exercises. According to Smith, these pairings will primarily open tight joints.
The mobility moves will help lengthen the shoulder (and other) joint’s range of motion (ROM) potential. Then, the subsequent strength exercises will reinforce that newfound ROM by forcing the body to perform a resistance movement, in which you can access said new range of motion and get stronger in it.
Directions: Perform each exercise marked with the same number back-to-back with no rest in between. Once you finished that pairing, move on to the next one. If you’re new to this warm-up, perform the sequence once. As you get acclimated, do the warm-up two times through.
1A. RomRod Lat Stretch: 30 seconds
1B. Pull-Up: three to five reps
Smith Says: This improves overhead pressing potential and lengthens the lats.
2A. RomRod Pass-Through: 10 reps
2B. Face Pull: 10-20 reps
Smith Says: This combo opens up the chest and shoulders and gets the shoulder blades moving.
3A. RomRod Good Morning: 10 reps
3B. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift: 10 reps
Smith Says: A great pairing to fire up the hips and activate the glutes.
4A. RomRod Windmill: five reps (each side)
4B. Light Dumbbell Overhead Press: 10-20 reps
Smith Says: This improves thoracic rotation and shoulder health.
5A. RomRod Sotts Press: five reps
5B. Dumbbell Goblet Squat: five to 10 reps
Smith Says: This superset improves squat depth, increases hip mobility, and bolsters thoracic extension while the lifter performs hip flexion movement.
Why You Need to Warm-Up Your Shoulders
Small but mighty, your shoulders are involved in every upper-body movement to some degree and lower-body movements that involve you gripping a barbell (or any tool). Here’s a break down of all the types of movements your shoulders allow.
- Shoulder abduction (lateral raises)
- Shoulder adduction (rowing variations)
- Shoulder horizontal abduction (bent over reverse fly)
- Shoulder horizontal adduction (bench press)
- Internal and external rotation (face pulls)
- Circumduction (shoulder circles)
The phrase “use it or lose it” applies to your joints. Your body works in tandem with your brain to move (through a system called the Central Nervous System), and the less you move, the weaker that brain-muscle connection is and the less proficient at movement you are. And if you try to perform any exercise with rusty joints and lackluster mobility, your form will suffer, and you’re setting yourself to get hurt potentially.
That’s why a warm-up is so important. Warm-ups wake up your brain and say, “Hey, we need to move this way today; you onboard?” Then, your brain will respond with, “Sure thing, now go crush that WOD.” The more you engage in specific movements, the better at them you’ll be — and the warm-up above covers just about all of the essential movement basics.
Smith’s warm-up works specifically by performing more passive activation movements, so, in a way, your body requests access to and primes a specific range of motion. Then, that activator is followed by a strength move to reinforce that new range of motion and acclimate to it.
More About the RomRod
The RomRod is a dowel-like tool that collapses so that you can take it with you anywhere. This two-pound mobility device allows you to assume any hand position you want — wide or narrow — and rotate, press, hinge, squat, and row to prime your body for specific movement patterns. Features include:
For more information on availability and the product itself, you can check out The RomRod’s Kickstarter page. The RomRod will be available in March 2021.
This collapsable mobility stick allows you to take your mobility work anywhere. The RomRod is durable and versatile, providing a variety of warm-up options to prep you for even the toughest of workouts.
Featured image: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock