For this series of neck, chest, and shoulder opening stretches, we will use the wall to increase our spine and shoulder awareness. After 12 minutes of delicious articulations and closed-chain movements your shoulders will sing.
Exercises in general are things we do to improve at something, to ingrain habits. There are strength exercises, team-building exercises, breath exercises etc. We can exorcise the demons, but that's a bit different. When it comes to physical (ya know, body stuff) exercises, they are categorized in many ways. One of the most basic categorizations is closed chain vs. open chain.
In closed chain movements, the free limb (hand or foot) is fixed to an immobile surface (like a wall or floor). For clarity, being fixed to a floor or wall is a choice, not a terrible super glue prank. If I stand on two feet, my feet are fixed to the floor. Open chain movements are the opposite; the hand or foot moves about freely. Standing and reaching upwards is open chain. A downward facing dog is closed chain.
When it comes to flexibility training, we want to include both closed and open chain stretches into our routine. They not only feel different; the results are different.
As I often say, awareness and breath are imperative to improving our alignment and flexibility. After all, if we are unaware of our patterns how can we change them?
We need feedback, and not just from another set of eyes. This is the power of using the wall or the floor. By having something to push against, we feel and know more about what we are experiencing.
When it comes to the shoulders, closed chain movements that challenge our ROM are a powerful way to increase awareness, alignment, and function. The shoulder joint is comprised of three bones and four joints. If your shoulder is tight, we want to not only get those bones moving well, we want the supporting musculature to be active. And guess what, when we push into something, muscles are happy to come to the party.
Under the increased tension of a closed chain exercise, the joint is not only getting signals about its safety, we are inclined to breathe deeper.
Closed chain movements also encourage multiple joints to move synergistically to achieve a desired movement. We run into a lot of problems when we try to get more "shoulder flexibility" by isolating the movement of the arm. In my experience, adhesions (sticky spots/scar tissue/muscle demons) and sub-optimal movement patterns are harder to work through in open chain movements.
So...as you perform this new video, "A Wall Stretch: 12 Minutes in Shoulder Opening Heaven," PUSH into the wall, spread your fingers wide, and breathe fully. Oh, and smile more than I do in the video. Apparently filming videos is very serious stuff.