Tony Gentilcore

Because heavy things won't lift themselves

Exercises You Should Be Doing: Forearm Wall Slides

Exercises You Should Be Doing:  Forearm Wall Slides Image

It’s been a while since I’ve done an “exercises you should be doing” segment, so I figured with all of our pro-baseball guys making their way back to the facility to start their off-season it would be prudent to delve into some of the exercises we incorporate as far as shoulder health is concerned. 

It’s no surprise that many of our guys come in  pretty banged-up, and as such, a lot of what we do within the first 3-4 weeks is to help correct many of the (predictable) bumps, bruises, and muscular imbalances that tend to accumulate over a long competitive season.

Truth be told, though, we use many of these same drills with much of our general population/weekend warrior clients as well.  I mean, when all is said and done, developing a short/stiff pec minor, dominate upper traps and levator, not to mention weak upward rotators (lower traps, serratus anterior) – all of which lend themselves to a shoulder that’s not too happy – aren’t just a problems we see in baseball players.  We see them is basically everyone!

Compound the above with poor t-spine mobility and movement quality, and you’ve got youself a recipe for disaster.

Of course, not every shoulder is the same, and there are other “outside of the box” modalities that we can explore to help improve overall function.  One of the more interesting ones to consider is breathing patterns – which is something we’ve been looking more and more into since incorporating some of the PRI (Postural Restoration Institute) philosophy into our programming. 

Without getting into the particulars – because honestly, at times, Klingon makes more sense to me – we tend to be chest breathers.  What I mean by this is that, more often that not, when asked to take a DEEP breath (or any breath for that matter), most people will end up inflating their chest.  As a result, the scalenes, levator, and upper traps become very “tonic” and nasty.

Moreover, as we continue to do this day in and day out, with upwards of 15,000-20,000 breaths per day, we tend to develop a left rib flair, which in turn, changes what’s known as our Zone of Apposition, which then throws a monkey wrench into things and affects how our diaphragm functions.

I’m getting a little a head of myself, but needless to say, just by making a concerted effort to work with one’s breathing patterns, we can make a profound effect on his or her shoulder function.  As an a side, it’s not uncommon for us to “find” 5-10 degrees of extra internal rotation in a right-handed pitcher just by focusing on breathing patterns alone for a few minutes.  I’m not gonna say it’s Jedi mind-trick territory, but it’s pretty close.

Anyhoo, like I said, I’m getting a head of myself.  For many people out there reading, it doesn’t have to be quite that in depth, and there are a lot of simple (albeit effective) exercises you can do that will undoubtedly help improve overall shoulder function, and keep you healthy in the long-term. 

Namely I’m referring to forearm wall slides, which is an exercise that I covered in detail in Muscle Imbalanced Revealed – Upper Body (just sayin).

What Does It Do:  This is an excellent execise that works not only the scapular retractors, but also the lower traps which play a VERY important role in scapular upward rotation – which is kind of a big deal when talking about overhead athletes.  Not coincidentally, though, the lower traps tend to be woefully weak/inhibited in just about everyone.   Yes, this includes you.

Key Coaching Cues:  standing roughly 2-3 inches away from the wall, begin by pinching your shoulder blades together (scapular retraction……or, for the functional anatomy nerds out there, scapular adduction).  From there place your forearms flush against the wall and gradually “slide” them upwards.  The key here is to NOT use your upper traps and to focus on keeping the shoulder blades depressed.  Go as high as you can – again, without shrugging – and then return back to the starting position and repeat the same sequence for 8-10 reps.

To kick it up a notch, you can also perform forearm wall slides – to 135 degrees (scapular plane).  

The set-up will be roughly the same, except here, you’ll slide your arms out to 135 degrees.  Goddamit what did I say about shrugging?????????  You never listen to me. 

I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to yell.  It’s just, it’s almost like I’m talking to a brick wall sometimes.

Anyways, once at the top, retract your shoulders back making sure NOT TO COMPENSATE WITH LUMBER EXTENSION!!!!!

As such, I like to cue people to squeeze their glutes while doing this variation to maintain more of a posterior pelvic tilt.

Return back to the starting position, and perform 8-10 repetitions.

Ideally, I’d probably use these as part of a general warm-up, but they’d also be money to use as a filler exercise between sets of squats or something.

Try them out today, and let me know what you think!

Did I just blow your mind? Make (or ruin) your day? Leave a comment, then share this with EVERYBODY.
  • Barath

    This has nothing to do with this blog-post, but I owe a HUGE thanks to everyone here who suggested heavy singles the other day. This morning, I gave it a shot, ditching my usual 5×5, and it went like this:

    3×135

    2×205

    2×225

    2×295

    1×315

    1×335

    8×225

    8×135

    I know the numbers are a little random, I'll plan it more carefully in the future. The last two sets I did because a) I was PUMPED, b) I didn't want to completely give up on volume either. I'd probably know tonight if this was a bad idea :) I finished off with 3 sets of seated cable rows, 3 sets of standing cable high rows, one set of chin-ups, and a longer than usual stretching.

    Heavy singles certainly seem the way to go ahead. Suddenly, 400 lbs looks much closer than it did :)

  • Barath

    errr, sorry about a lengthy comment.

  • http://www.ori.totalh.com/Home ori

    really enjoyed this read since so many ppl have messed up shoulders. Definetely will start incorporating this exercise as a filler between sets of major exercises.

  • Chris B

    Is there a specific progression you use for a client with pitifully weak lower traps?

  • http://razorsedgeperformance.ca Cory Kennedy

    This is a great exercise to teach people proper mechanics of the scapulae and shoulders with arms overhead. I find it is especially applicable when trying to teach strict pullups/chinups. Tony, do you ever do them/teach them with a mini-band around the wrists? I find that little bit of external rotation really helps.

    Cheers,

    Cory Kennedy

  • Kip

    What are a few basis corrective exercises or your basic progressiona for dealing with an athlete who has right scapular winging, poor right shoulder internal rotation, prominent left anterior ribs, and a flat lumbar spine with an anterior weight shift. I've developed this type of posture and I'm a right handed thrower.

  • James

    Barath,

    Very nice, mate! Keep your technique solid, and keep trying to accelerate the bar fast off the floor, and you'll hit 400 in no time!

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Barath: Congrats, man! See, “we” told you……;o) 400 is right around the corner.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Chris B: Honestly, just cueing them to perform things like 1-arm standing cable rows, TRX rows, face pulls, etc would be a great start. Namely, you just want to make sure they maintain more of a posterior tilt with the scapulae when they “row,” as well as making sure they don't compensate by shrugging. There's no need to get too cute in the beginning.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Cory: absolutely! One progression we've used with forearm wall slides is by adding a band around the wrist to get more of a posterior cuff activation.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Kip: come to CP…..;o)

  • Kip

    I wish I could Tony. I'm actually taking trip to IFAST to get an assessment by Bill Hartman this weekend.

  • itsjustme

    cool post, my shoulder are messed up to. Computer Gal. However the breathing recomendations sound alot like yoga. And yoga has opened up my chest and shoulders and helped my sleep. Great for balance too. Just curious if you have looked into yoga? Less testosterone but imho very functional.

  • Brett

    Thanks Tony, I think I saw you or Eric doing these a while back and they have worked great for me, adding a band every other set. The 135 degree variation is new to me so thanks for the info.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Kip: You're all set then my man. Bill will take very good care of you. Let me know how it goes!

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @Itsjustme: I have my qualms with yoga – namely just how it's marketed as this all-encompassing panacea of fitness to women. It has its advantages, but it also has a lot of disadvantages, too. Suffice it to say, I recognize that a lot of what we do at CP – from dynamic warm-ups, stretching, etc – has its base in yoga.

  • http://www.SupersoldierProgram.com Stephane

    Deceivingly difficult. I noticed a huge imbalance between shoulders!

  • Jon Khan

    I had a small question about cues during this exercise:

    1. Retract shoulder blades first = so think scapula back and down.

    2. Keep shoulder blades depressed while doing the movement= think scapula down.

    Is this correct?

    Also, do you ever do this exercise unilaterally–e.g using the opposite hand to cue, etc.

    Thanks a million for the great blog Tony.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Stephane: you bet. It's one of those “um, yeah, this looks harder than it really it” movements.

    @Jon Khan: cues sound good. And, I see no reason why you couldn't perform them unilaterally if you wanted.

  • http://www.strengthspeedagility.com Mike

    Thanks Tony. I am going to include this in my warm ups from now on.

  • Pingback: Don’t be scared… | CrossFit NYC

  • May

    Tony, from watching your vid, and from A&C, am i correct in saying that before you slide the forearms up the wall, you need to PROtract the scapula? If so, why? Thanks

    • Anonymous

      Protraction engages the serratus anterior – an important (and generally weak in most people) upward rotator.

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