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Written by Rebecca Stokes

Pole and aerial arts are not just shoulder intense pursuits but shoulder dependent pursuits. Stretching and opening the shoulder complex is an integral part of developing as an athlete and dancer. It is easy to forget to stretch or to simply plan to stretch tomorrow, but when building strength in the shoulder and upper body, flexibility is as important as gaining muscle strength. Having flexibility prevents muscle strains, allows for better range of motion and produces the elasticity often needed in the upper body for advanced moves. The shoulder complex is comprised of muscles with the primary function of moving the arms. The shoulder joint is classified as a ball and socket joint and has the greatest range of motion in the body. There are a multitude of muscles that connect into the shoulder joint and the entire upper body is linked into the movements of the shoulders. When developing flexibility, the goal is to increase the range of motion in a safe way that is effective for the chosen pursuit. In pole and aerial, the larger muscles of the chest and upper back (latissimus dorsi and pectorals) tend to overdevelop. They are prime movers in all pull-up movement. These titan muscles can dominate the smaller muscle groups like the shoulders, as the inclination is to rely on the prime movers and not utilize the smaller shoulder complex muscles as much. Thereby, the shoulder complex will be more inclined toward injury and locking up with tightness. This set of five stretches that can increase shoulder range of motion and flexibility. Do these stretches after a workout when the muscles are warm. This reduces chances of injury, though the first two stretches could be included in a dynamic warm-up. Two Dynamic Stretches for Range of Motion Dynamic stretching meaning controlling the stretch movement and flowing in and out of stretches to increasingly find range of motion for a few seconds. Totallystokedfitnessshoulderstretch1     Reverse Rotation Stretch The best tool for this stretch is a band or a yoga strap, though a towel could work as well. Begin with the arms up above the shoulders rotated externally into cactus arms. Maintain the elbow bend and gently rotate the arms back behind the head and downward to the hips, stay unhurried and rotate back up to cactus arms. Placing the hands further out and wider will be less stretch. More stretch requires walking the hands inward toward the shoulders. The aim of this dynamic stretch is to open the shoulders, listen to the body and be mindful of overdoing it. Try this rotation for 30 seconds to one minute; continue rotating up and down slowly.     totallystokedfitnessstretch2     Side Body Reaches Begin standing hip width apart, raise the right arm overhead and bend to the left. Control the stretch and slowly move to side bend on the other side. Stretch through the side body and shoulder complex. Move fluidly through the stretch, making the movement dynamic for eight to ten times on each side.             Three Static Stretches Static stretching is relaxing into a stretch and using only body weight to deepen the stretch. This is traditional cool down stretching, done at the end of a class or workout.   totallystokedfitnessstretch3Shoulder Wall Opener Stretch Much of the work of pole is done on the vertical plane at the center of the body, because the pole is a vertical apparatus. This stretch requires using the wall to open the pecs and shoulders out from this vertical plane. Place the hands upon the wall starting at head height, hinge at the hips and let the chest drop downward. The feet may need to walk back away from the wall to accommodate opening the chest and shoulders. Stay for 30 seconds to one minut   totallystokedfitnessstretch4         Hand Interlaced Behind the Back Stretch Begin seated and interlace the hands behind the back or clasp the hands. Roll the shoulders back and down. Open the chest and the shoulders back. To add extra stretch, employ gravity. Come to standing and walk the feet out to a wide leg stance and hinge at the hips releasing the arms overhead. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.           totallystokedfitnessshoulderstretch5   Arm Across the Body Stretch Keep the right arm parallel with the shoulder and draw the right arm across the body inward with the left hand or forearm. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute on each side.     Rebecca is the author of and co-founder of Atmosphere Fitness, an instructor training company for aerial arts and pole. Rebecca is a personal trainer, aerialist and poler of 8 years and studio owner. She specializes in training tips, injury prevention and tutorials for pole and aerial arts.She will be launching a series of e-books offering workouts, corrective exercise and training plans for pole and aerial arts. Blog Website

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