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Shoulder Mobility Drills: Scapular Wall Slides vs. Doorway Slides

Written on February 4, 2011 at 9:18 am, by Eric Cressey

The other day, I received an email from a Show and Go customer who noticed that the scapular wall slide and the doorway slide were two similar, but not identical shoulder mobility drills included in the program.  He asked if I could talk a bit more about the differences between the two – and when to use both.

First, let’s have a look at the two exercises.  Here’s the scapular wall slide:

And, here’s the doorway slide:

As the voice-over on the video above notes, the scapular wall slide is an acceptable fit for just about any workout routine.  The only exceptions would be those who have upper extremity pain with overhead motions (rotator cuff tears, etc.).

However, we can utilize the doorway slide in certain folks to get to where we want to be a bit faster.  More specifically, these folks are the ones who are REALLY immobile in their upper extremity and wouldn’t even be able to get their arms back even close to the wall on the wall slides.  So, in addition to not making them feel bad about their “tight shoulders”, the doorway slide actually allows us to use the doorway as a stretching implement to get a gentle stretch across the anterior shoulder girdle (predominantly pec major and minor).  There are three very important coaching points:

1. Don’t let the head poke forward, as a forward head posture is simply a substitution for not retracting/depressing the scapulae or horizontally adducting the humerus.

2. Don’t crank too aggressively on the shoulders; it should be a subtle stretch.  And, it shouldn’t be used with those (particularly overhead throwing athletes) who already have increased external rotation and, in turn, more anterior laxity.

3. Make sure to focus on pulling the shoulder blades down and back as the elbows are lowered.  You shouldn’t have movement of the humerus without movement of the scapula.

For more shoulder mobility drills and the rationale for them, I’d encourage you to check out our Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set.

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  • Walt

    Great post! I’ve been doing SWS for about a year, but should I try to keep my shoulder blades depressed and retracted throughout the whole movement? That is, essentially try to keep the upper traps out of the movement even as my arms go up toward the starting position?

    Thanks,
    Walt

  • John

    Thanks for the tip on the door slide. I had a torn labrum repaired, and it will take 1-2 years to get close to a normal range of motion back. Can’t do the wall slides, door slide looks like a good progression.


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