Tip: Improve Shoulder Health With This Move

Improve your posture and your big overhead lifts with this mobility drill. Check it out.

The best mobility drills are ones that work to the point of never having to do them ever again, and that comes with mastery of movement and hitting the "save button" by adding it to your movement library. So what comes after that? An active stability component to the new range of motion or mobility you just unlocked.

This drill activates the primary stabilizers of the upper back. It does so from a challenging stability setup (half kneeling) which increases your stability motor learning.

How To Do It

  • Kneel on your right knee and position your left foot out in front of your body. The left foot will be directly in front of the left hip, with a 90-degree bend at both the knee and hip on that left side.
  • The right knee will also be positioned in a 90-degree bend with the toes and foot dorsi-flexed into the ground.
  • Start your 3-step tension by squeezing your glutes and adductors together, creating a scissoring effect at the hips to co-contract around the joints.
  • Co-contract the pecs and lats together. Place your opposite hand in your armpit and squeeze. You should feel the pecs and lats turn on together and the shoulder slightly depress and internally rotate.
  • While maintaining hip and shoulder co-contractions, brace the core and ensure 360-degree tension around the entire region.

When the tension described above is executed properly, you should be able to "feel" a stretch going through your quads on the back (kneeling) leg from active internal tension alone.

Once you learn to generate tension through your entire body in the half-kneeling setup, it's time to add the dynamic banded component to this base and further strengthen and stabilize around your newfound thoracic spine and shoulder ranges of motion.

The Next Steps

  1. Place a light circular band around a squat rack at hip height and string a second extra-light band through the first to create "handles" for your hands.
  2. Grab the extra-light band with both hands (with arms out in front of you) while maintaining co-contraction of the pecs and lats with packed shoulders.
  3. Drive your elbows back while your hands come directly towards your mouth, with a focus on "squeezing" your upper back, and more specifically your posterior delts.
  4. Once you've achieved full activation and peak contraction from the face pull, slowly externally rotate the shoulders, bringing the hands up into a 90-90 position.
  5. Externally rotate to full uncompensated range to peak the upper back contraction once again, and from that end range, press your hand straight up into a Y.
  6. This Y-press should be positioned overhead with full range of motion into elevation, and non-compensated at the thoracic or lumbar spine.
  7. Hold the overhead position for 1-2 seconds and slowly reverse the drill to come back to the start.

Though this drill has many moving parts, they're all working together in order to achieve upper back activation (which most big lifts depend on) while maintaining it through an assisted overhead position that uses increased stability to open up range of motion and mobility.

This drill works extremely well before any overhead lifts including overhead squatting, pressing, and vertical pulling variations. It can also be a powerful drill to negate poor daily postures and can be staple movement in any postural maintenance program.

Since these reps are meant to be done with slow and deliberate motion, the total time under tension for each rep will be around 6-8 seconds. So only do 3-5 reps at a time in order to avoid pre-fatiguing the upper back and pillar to the point of diminishing returns. Do an even amount of sets per side.