Remember when you were a child, and the candy jar was just out of reach, and you risked life and limb reaching for it? If you knew swear words back then, I bet you would’ve called your parents a few choice words. That’s how parents used to keep stuff away from kids by putting it up high.

It sucked, but finding a way around it was a blast… long as they didn’t find out. What does reaching have to do with shoulder health? Don’t worry. I’m getting to that after this little trip down memory lane.

If you’ve lifted weights for any time, or you’re getting on in this life, you’ve probably hurt your shoulder. That sucks because shoulder injuries slow your gains and ruin what’s left of your patience. Injuries happen, so you should do everything possible to reduce your chances of getting hurt.

Adding a little extra to what you’re already doing ( I hope) will do the world of good for your shoulders. And this is where reaching comes in. Let’s explore the incredible shoulder joint and how reaching can help keep your shoulders healthier longer.

Shoulders & Reaching

Your shoulder is a shallow ball and socket joint with the incredible ability to move in multiple directions. These movements are shoulder:

Abduction (Lateral raises)

Adduction (Chin-ups)

Horizontal abduction (Chest Fly)

Horizontal adduction (Push-ups)

Blade upward and downward rotation (Overhead presses)

Blade elevation and depression

Internal and external rotation

Your shoulder mobility allows you to do a lot of fun stuff like throwing, pushing, pulling, climbing, and carrying all the groceries in from the car. But there is a drawback: many things can go wrong. All this mobility is excellent, but the shoulder needs stability also, and the rotator cuff and the muscles that attach to the shoulder joint make this happen.

The stability part of the equation is up to you to get the muscles around the shoulder strong. Doing variations of pushes, pulls, shoulder raises, and planks usually do the trick. Adding a reaching movement on some of these exercises is a small thing that can significantly impact your shoulders.

Reaching & Reducing Shoulder Injuries

Even when you reduce the risk of shoulder injuries, the occasional one happens if you’re pushing your physical limits or you just slept wrong. Plus, you’re likely to hurt your shoulder with age because the soft tissues ( ligaments and tendons) surrounding the joint tend to degenerate.

But adding reaching to movements you should be already doing can help prevent niggly, unnecessary shoulder injuries from occurring at all. Reaching is a movement that you do daily. You reach for

Food in the fridge

Food in the pantry

The door

Dumbbells to do more curls.

Adding a reach while performing pushes and pulls is vital for shoulder health and movement because this allows the shoulder blades to move across your ribcage. The muscle that makes this happen is the Serratus Anterior. The SA muscle wraps around the ribcage and acts to stabilize the shoulder blades by holding it against the back of the ribcage.  

When doing unilateral cable chest presses, rows, or push-ups, the SA’s primary role is to protract and abduct the shoulder blades.

A diagram of the shoulder joint

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Adding reaching to a push or pull helps strengthen the Serratus and takes your shoulders through a fuller range of motion, which makes for happier shoulders. And more flex time, too.

The Importance Of Reaching

The SA plays a vital role in shoulder movement as an outward rotator of the scapula that allows your arms to get into an overhead position. This is critical for lifting weights overhead or reaching for anything above your head. The body will perform the overhead movement if the Serratus is inhibited.

If your SA is weak and other muscles are doing the SA job, it may lead to pain and dysfunction around the upper traps, neck, and lower back over time. See if you can raise your arms above your head, getting your biceps by or behind your ears without your ribcage protruding or your lower back overarching.

If you can, that’s great, but if you can’t, try foam rolling the lats, performing some Serratus wall sides, and retesting your shoulder mobility for any improvement.

Adding reaches to your push-ups, rows, dumbbell bench, and other press variations ensures you unleash the power of the Serratus anterior to keep your shoulders healthier longer.

Wrapping up

Taking care of your shoulders is imperative when you’re crushing weights or getting older, like me, because you don’t think about the health of your shoulders until it’s too late. Adding a reach to what you’re already doing is a highly effective method to keep the shoulder injury fairy away.

And it makes it easier for you to reach the cookie candy jar.

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