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10 Shoulder Mobility Exercises and Stretches

Whether you have tightness in your shoulders, are recovering from an injury, or simply want to boost the strength of your shoulder muscles, there are specific stretches and exercises that can be especially beneficial. Including shoulder-specific exercises and stretches in your overall workout program may help increase your shoulder mobility and flexibility. These movements may also build strength in your shoulders, improve your shoulder function, and reduce the risk of injury.

Keep reading to learn more about the shoulder exercises and stretches that may help boost your functional fitness and make it easier to move your shoulders.

Mobility vs Flexibility

Mobility and flexibility are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.

Flexibility refers to the muscle’s ability to lengthen. Mobility, on the other hand, is the ability of the joint to move through its full range of motion. While they both refer to the overall range of motion in the shoulder, it’s important to know where the limitation is coming from.

Joint mobility and the actual biomechanics of the ball and socket joint tend to play a much bigger role in dysfunction.

Shoulder Mobility Exercises

Performing shoulder-specific exercises, like the ones outlined below, can help build strength and mobility in your shoulder muscles and joints. These exercises may also help prevent tightness and subsequent injury.

Before you do any of these exercises, spend 5 to 10 minutes warming up with dynamic upper body stretches such as arm circles, arm swings, and spinal rotations. Warming up this way is great for increasing blood flow to a specific area, which also helps with overall performance. If you’re recovering from a shoulder injury or surgery, work with a physical therapist who can help you do the right exercises and stretches for your condition.

1. Standing arm swings

This is a great dynamic exercise that helps to increase blood flow to the shoulder joint. Doing this exercise as part of a warmup before performing upper body exercises can improve mobility and flexibility in your shoulders and upper back.

2. Shoulder pass-through

The shoulder pass-through exercise helps to increase joint mobility while still engaging the surrounding muscles of the shoulder. This exercise requires a holding a long stick, like a broomstick or PVC pipe.

3. High-to-low rows

According to Snyder, hi-to-low rows really challenge the upper back and thoracic muscles, which provide a lot of stability to the shoulder joint. This exercise requires a resistance band. You can also do this exercise at the gym using a cable machine.

4. Reverse fly

Like the high-to-low rows, the reverse fly exercise targets the upper back and thoracic muscles that provide a lot of stability to the shoulder joint. This exercise requires a set of light dumbbells.

5. Rotation with dumbbell

Rotation with a dumbbell allows you to warm up the shoulder for overhead and throwing motions. According to Snyder, this is standard practice for most athletes who extend their arms overhead and externally rotate during their sport.

For a full breakdown of each Exercise - View Here


Shoulder Mobility Stretches

The main benefit of stretching the shoulder is to reduce the risk of injury to the muscles and joints.

Since the stretches listed below fall under the category of static stretches, consider doing them after a workout or immediately following a warmup that includes dynamic stretches.

6. Cross-arm stretch

The cross-arm stretch targets the rotator cuff muscles. You should feel a good stretch in the rear shoulders.

7. Sleeper stretch

Snyder likes the sleeper stretch because it’s an excellent way to work internal rotation for the shoulder. This stretch is often recommended when dealing with a shoulder injury or during rehab. While you can do this stretch on both sides for general health, if you have an injury, the emphasis should be on the affected side.

8. Doorway stretch

The doorway stretch allows you to stretch each side of your chest individually, which helps if one side is tighter than the other. This stretch helps to open the pectoralis muscles in your chest and increases the range of motion in your shoulders.

9. Chest expansion

Chest expansion is a good way to stretch your back muscles, open your chest, and increase range of motion in your shoulders. Snyder says it can also help expand your lungs to receive oxygen better.

10. Child’s Pose

Commonly known as a yoga move, Snyder says Child’s Pose is a good way to open the shoulder joint into flexion (forward bending) and to stretch your latissimus dorsi, or lat, muscles. Your lower back can also benefit from this pose.

For a full breakdown of each Stretch - View Here


Safety Tips

To keep your shoulder mobility exercises safe and effective, keep these tips in mind.

  • Stop if you feel any pain. Slight discomfort is normal, but you shouldn’t feel sharp pain while you’re doing these exercises or stretches. Stop right away if you experience pain.
  • Remember to breathe. Breathing can help relieve stress and tension in your shoulders, back, and the rest of your body. Breathing well may also help you do an exercise or stretch for longer.
  • Start slowly. If you’re new to working out or doing shoulder exercises, don’t try to do too much too soon. Start with just a few exercises and stretches at first, then add more as you build your strength.
  • Check with your doctor or physical therapist. If you’ve had shoulder surgery, an injury, or a lot of shoulder pain, it’s important to check with your doctor or physical therapist before doing shoulder mobility exercises and stretches.


The Bottom Line

Whether you’re an athlete, gym enthusiast, or just trying to improve the health, strength, and mobility of your shoulder muscles and joints, specific shoulder exercises and stretches are an important part of any workout routine.

Performing shoulder-specific exercises and stretches can help:

  • increase your range of motion
  • reduce tension
  • improve flexibility
  • prevent injury

If you’re new to shoulder exercises and stretches, consider working with a personal trainer or physical therapist. They can help you perform the movements with the correct form and technique.


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