The exercise I cover today is one you can use to open up tight and compressed shoulders from grappling. They also help you to anchor your lower shoulder (especially your lats) and core while keeping a grounded base, essential things for a grappler.
Halos are another daily mobility drill advocated by American jiu-jitsu black belt and world-renowned strength and conditioning specialist Steve Maxwell. It is literally one of the most efficient exercises he advocates — something you should perform daily.
He gave this advice to renowned strength and conditioning coach Dan John as one of the three most efficient exercises to add to a training protocol. Besides the main movement patterns for strength (carry, lunge, squat, push, and pull), these should be staples in your supplementary training. For a guy like me, their word is like gospel.
The work of these two men will give you a lot of bang for your buck. Go down their rabbit holes if you want simple, usable training information.
The Yin and Yang of this Movement
This exercise hits on two levels, ying and yang, or hard and soft. They soften (yin) the shoulder girdle by mobilizing the shoulders and thoracic spine by freeing it up through integral motions. But when doing it with a challenging weight, it teaches the practitioner how to anchor and stabilize (yang) their body into the ground by engaging the lats.
This movement teaches proper glute engagement and lower belly breathing mechanics. To perform this properly you must have extended, open hips in order for your shoulders and thoracic spine to sit in the right position when standing upright with load.
You must also be able to ground through all four corners of your feet. This entails pushing down through the big toe and engaging your shin musculature in order to pull your pinky toe upwards, while pushing your heel downwards into the ground.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts, this is a staple in my teaching and integral for strong hooks in BJJ.
Importance of Grounding for a Grappler
This is especially important as a grappler because grounding your weight through the floor is essential in keeping your opponent from off-balancing you. Keeping your centeredness, stability, and groundedness then allows you to control the roll by breaking their posture while retaining your own.
Fix Compressed Shoulders in Grappling
The nature of grappling will compress and “jam” up the different joints that make up the shoulder. The pressure needed to exert control in different positions (think front headlock) plus the protective shell you must create as a natural defense mechanism contributes to this tightness.
This exercise will go a long way in ungluing this area of the body giving you more movement in the most mobile joint in your body. Conversely, it often becomes the tightest joint in the body, making it even more imperative to work on.
By spending time ungluing and stabilizing this area, you will have more angles of attack allowing you to incorporate and hit different chokes, because your shoulders are able to move in all of the motions they’re supposed to.
Add this in before and after training and as part of your strength training protocol. Do at least 10 quality controlled reps at a time (5 each way) for each set.
More than anything, as I always say, grease the groove. Make it part of your daily practice and see it add up for your overall bodily health. I’m confident it’ll help your game too.
As always, reach out to me with any questions!
For more training tips find my ebook "The Foundations of Movement Autonomy, Vitality, and Performance" here!