Bulletproof your body – Shoulder extension (Part 2)

Following on from my first article regarding shoulder extension and bodyweight movements, this follow up, including some more advanced exercises using the gymnastic rings, bands and stick/barbell drills is a good way to progress and improve your movement vocabulary.

Shoulder extension (increasing the angle of the joint past 90 degrees) is a hugely neglected range in 90% of the population. This ranges from children right through to the elderly, where it is probably the most important to maintain, reducing the risk of injury and resulting in a healthy body as a whole.

Extension can occur in the overhead range, laterally (out to the side) and posteriorly (behind you) in the case of the shoulder, due to the large range of motion about this joint.

In order to maintain good shoulder health, it is important that we maintain mobility and work to develop strength through the full range of motion. This is especially important if we want to progress on to more complex bodyweight exercises such as gymnastic ring work and olympic lifts as, without a good level of active and passive mobility, injury will likely result.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that because they are fairly strong, they will be able to jump straight into advanced exercises, such as ‘german hangs’ or ‘skin-the-cats’, as they look impressive and your ego tells you “I think I can do that!”. Unfortunately, the result is often  damage to the bicep tendons or joint capsule and a long road to recovery.

Following on from part 1 – top 5 bodyweight exercises, we are now going to explore bodyweight and barbell exercises that can be used for improving the range of motion and beginning to develop more active mobility now that we have built passive mobility using the exercises in part 1.

Resistance band – shoulder dislocates  

This drill is very effective to use as part of your movement preparation and warm up, as well as an active rest between sets. This exercise is best performed once you have established a full range of motion about the shoulder as if you suffer from any for of impingement this may aggravate the issue. This can also be included in daily movement practice to improve the range of the shoulder gradually in all populations.


  1. Standing, take a light resistance band to begin with and hold it shoulder width apart. Keep glutes and core active so that all movement comes from the shoulders.
  2. Raise the arms straight overhead and behind, so that the band finishes resting on the glutes

3. Pause briefly, feeling the stretch, before repeating on the opposite side.

4. Perform 5-10 reps/side of each variant, or work for time, depending on your preference and current mobility level.


View the movement video here: https://youtu.be/EgkjhkWomTs

German Hang Pull ins -> German Hang 

This is a more focused stretch than the dislocated despite being a very similar movement. If you can perform dislocates smoothly and without pain, then this is the next step as you can begin to build strength through the end range of movement here when we are able to safely progress this to a full german hang (and then on to skin the cat’ which we will cover in a minute)


  1. Take hold of the gymnastic rings/TRX with straight arms and allow the arms to move overhead (you should feel a stretch in the lats/shoulder here). Keeping the glutes and core tight to avoid stress through the lumbar spine (lower back)
  2. From here, keeping the arms straight, bring the arms around, allowing the shoulders to roll forwards until that arms are behind you in a deep stretch position
  3. Keeping your feet on the floor, allow yourself to sink into the stretch as far is as comfortable and hold for 5-10s

4. From here, pull yourself back out to the start position by reversing the movement.

5. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps.

6. Once you are comfortable with this movement and sitting in a deep stretch or 10-15s is manageable, begin to take more and more weight through the arms until your feet leave the floor and you are in a full hang.

This hang position is called a German Hang, it is excellent for improving passive range of motion through the shoulder and also improving joint strength through all of the soft tissues

Be aware for any pain in this position, especially down the bicep. If you feel a sharp pain at all, stop and regress the movement. Due to the deep stretch in the bicep that this position provides, if you aren’t ready to hang, injury can result.

Remember to keep breathing and relax into the stretch with each exhale.

View Movement Video here: https://youtu.be/2Gk5tpPsIas

Active Barbell Shoulder Extension  

This exercise is challenging and is a test, not only of shoulder extension, but also of active range of motion, i.e. The range that you can control. The movement is designed to develop strength through the range of motion over time.


  1. Begin with a stick/light bar
  2. Whilst standing, hold the stick with arms relaxed behind the body, palms facing forwards and as close to shoulder width as possible.
  3. From here keep the torso upright, squeeze the shoulder blades together and. Try to raise the bar up behind you as high as possible. (The aim is a 90 degree angle from the body)
  4. Hold here for 5s, then lower under control and repeat for 5 reps.
  5. Once you can complete 3 sets of 5 reps with this hold, its time to increase the weight on the bar slightly.

View the movement video here: https://youtu.be/ExFWR4F2MHA

Skin The Cat 

Another bodyweight exercise. This is more of a dynamic stretch/joint strengthening exercise due to the increased load through the joints as we move through the movement. This exercise whilst excellent for developing control and strength through the full range of motion of the shoulder, also requires the need for a strong core and  good grip strength. (If you are looking for a structured programme to help you to develop these – enquire about my Bulletproof Body online training by e-mailing info@simplesessions.co.uk)


  1. Begin by hanging below the rings in an active hang (straight arms, with scapula depressed)
  2. Perform a knee raise/ toes to bar movement whilst simultaneously pulling the hands towards the hips (pull with the lats) in order to pull the knees through the arms.
  3. Once you are in the inverted position, keep pulling through until you end up in the German Hang position, control this movement by keeping tension through the arms and chest.
  4. Pause here and then pull back through to return to a full hang position (begin at a height where you can touch your feet to the floor if needed)
  5.       Try incorporating these exercises into your current training and see how they help to improve your shoulder health, mobility and strength once you have developed sufficiently with the exercises in shoulder extension part. These can be excellent as part of skill block or to add into a core routine.