My shoulders and upper back are extremely inflexible. This makes it extremely difficult to put the weight directly overhead as the weight is always over my toes. It is also extremely difficult when trying to keep a proud chest for most exercises, especially when doing squats. Both problems become extremely transparent when trying to perform an overhead squat. Most stretches I have performed until now mostly put stress on my lower back, including the few times I have done the wall squat, and a little bit on my shoulders. My upper back never feels very stretched. What stretches, practices and process would you recommend in order to correct these two points?
Here are some exercises to incorporate into the specific warm-up portion of your workout:
1) Wall Squats: Make sure they are done slow and controlled. Toes must be touching the wall and feet must be parallel as well as shoulder width apart. Don't let them slide outwards. Each foot should form a perpendicular angle with the wall. Try a 5 second count for lowering into the low squat position. To work this exercise needs to be done in a methodical and deliberate fashion. If you are doing it right you will feel the stress in the muscles of the lower back.
2) Shoulder Dislocates: Use a 5-6 foot section of PVC pipe or a broomstick. Do them in a slow and controlled fashion. Don't just speed through them. Try to push the PVC pipe as far away from you as possible.
3) 4x (30sec Work/30sec "Rest") Push Press: Use light Dumbbells (i.e. 2 x 10#). Attempt to do 20-25 perfect reps in the 30sec work period. During the 30sec "Rest" period hold the dumbbells straight overhead. Ensure that you make the overhead holds as strict as possible. Keep your arms straight by pushing your hands towards the sky, keep your spine in line and prevent your back from arching.
4) Light Overhead Squats: You don't necessarily need to do overhead squat heavy to get a positive benefit from the movement. Do three sets of ten repetitions with a 45# barbell. The goal on each rep is perfect form. Don't speed through them.
Therefore a specific warm-up may look like. Start your workout with the following progression a few times a week and the shoulder flexibility problem should work itself out:
3x5 Wall Squat
3x10 Shoulder Dislocate
4x (30sec Work/30sec "Rest") Push Press @ 2 x 10# DB
3x10 OHS @ 45#