Without shoulder stability and flexibility, you leave yourself vulnerable to injuries that can keep you off the mat or defenseless against tons of moves your opponent can throw down. Gary Calcagno, strength coach for the four-consecutive-time NCAA National Champion Oklahoma State wrestling team, promotes shoulder flexibility and stability with a couple of well-chosen lifts. Here, Calcagno dishes on these most important body parts and the weight room work that can keep them healthy.
STACK: What’s the best lift for shoulder flexibility and stability?
Gary Calcagno: The shoulder work you get from the Hang Snatch is second to none. We always start our workouts with the Snatch, because that’s when you’re most explosive. We do anywhere from 3 sets of 5 reps to 4 sets of 5 or 4 sets of 3. You don’t need a ton of weight on the bar to produce the power, explosion and hip pop you’re looking for.
How do you teach your athletes proper form?
GC: I leave them on the bar for awhile until they get the correct behind-the-head catch. I also have them do several Overhead Squats until they master it. When you do Overhead Squats, you’re actually in the catch position of the Snatch. If you can’t do an Overhead Squat, you can’t Snatch.
Does the Overhead Squat also help with shoulder stability and flexibility?
GC: Absolutely. You’re stabilizing your shoulder because, to do it correctly, you’re stabilizing your body with the bar over your head. And the great thing about an Overhead Squat is that you also work elbow and core stability, which is why this is one of the best lifts—you accomplish so much with it.
How often should this lift be used and with what weight and rep/set pattern?
GC: We use the Overhead Squat every other workout. I like them to put a quarter on both sides of the bar and knock out 3 sets of 3-6 reps. When they do the lift with an empty bar, I usually keep it in the 10- to 12-rep range.
Overhead Squat with Snatch Grip
• Grip bar much wider than shoulder width and assume athletic stance with bar raised directly overhead
• Bend knees and drop hips into squat position, maintaining extended arms throughout lift
• Lower hips until thighs are parallel to ground
• Keeping core tight and knees behind toes, return to starting position by extending hips and knees
• Grip bar much wider than shoulder width and assume athletic stance with bar resting at mid-thigh
• Keeping chest up and core tight, explode upward by fully extending hips, knees and ankles
• Forcefully shrug traps, keeping arms straight and elbows locked
• Pull bar up, keeping it close to chest
• Drop under bar and catch it overhead in athletic stance