5 Exercises to Increase Shoulder Mobility


The amount of people who have rounded shoulders from sitting on a laptop all day is concerning (as I straighten up myself while typing this, lol). Not only that, but the more you round your shoulders, the more you are going to lose range of motion in your shoulders, and then your thoracic spine, and then we start to have back pain and hunches and it just isn’t a good time. So, let’s get ahead of it now. Not only will these movements help with shoulder mobility, they can also help with shoulder strength. A lot of times people  hit a plateau in strength because of a range of motion issue, or a pain issue. So let’s see if these 5 exercises can increase shoulder mobility!

The Shoulder Joint

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint – meaning it freely moves in all planes of motion. In moving the shoulder you are moving the sternum, clavicle, ribs, scapula, and humerus; this is why it moves in all planes of motion because it helps to innervate so many structures. In order to actually move these structures, we need to have ligaments, tendons, and muscles, not only just have them, but be able to fire and use them all!

Wodprep explains the movement of the shoulder well in regards to force couples…

” When you move your shoulder you are producing force couples. A good example of a force couple is turning your steering wheel. If you do it the right way, one hand rotates the wheel up and while the other rotates the wheel down. This is a force couple.

Now, when your shoulder is producing a force couple, in order for your shoulder to execute that movement properly, the opposing muscles needed to produce the force couple must be in balance. That means they have adequate strength and proper firing sequences. There’s always a yin to the yang.”

So this means, if we are lacking range of motion or mobility within the shoulder joint, we likely aren’t in “balance” within the joint…causing imbalances, injury and overcompensation!

It’s important to remember that the health of your joints doesn’t just mean the bone, but also that each muscle within the joint is being strengthened and worked. If you are someone who already knows you have shoulder pain or imbalances, try these mobility exercises!

Mobility Exercises

1: Open Book

• Start laying on your side – Shoulders stacked and arms out straight.

• Bottom leg is straight and top leg is bent and on the floor in front of you.

• Keeping the knee on the floor open up the top arm as far as you can, trying to touch both shoulders to the floor while keeping the knee on the floor. You also want your head to follow that hand.

2: Sleeper Stretch

• Lay on your side, stacked on your bottom shoulder.

• Bring your shoulder up to 90 degrees and bend elbow at 90 degrees.

• Taking your opposite arm – gently press down on your hand/wrist. Hold for 5 seconds and release.

• You should feel a stretch in the back of the shoulder.

3: Downdog

• Start with hands and feet flat on the floor and hips up in the air.

• Lengthen your spine and press your head down between your shoulders.

• This should open up the shoulder joint and stretch it – you can also move forward/backward and side/side to get a deeper stretch.

4: Doorway Stretch

• Stand with your shoulder and hip at a doorway, corner of wall.

• Pull arm up (one closest to the wall) with shoulder and elbow at 90 degrees.

• Bring opposite foot forward.

• Lean forward and feel a stretch through the chest.

5: Wall Slides

• Start sitting (or standing) with your butt all the way to the wall, low back on the wall, and shoulders.

• Starting with hands up on the wall with elbows bent, reach hands up overhead to straighten arms.

• You want to keep your back, elbows, wrists and hands on the wall through the entire movement.

• This is a huge test of overhead mobility!

Benefits of Mobility

I’ve said it before and I will say it again…just because you are strong doesn’t mean you are going to age well! Yes, having strength is going to mean being able to catch yourself if you fall in old age, or allow you to stand up from a chair. But it won’t allow you to bend to get up off the floor, or reach for something over your head. You need mobility as much as you need strength because if you don’t MOVE IT you LOSE IT.

I have seen a ton a people who are strong, yet they can’t even sit criss cross apple sauce. Our bodies are meant to move and stretch, and if we don’t work on it now, we aren’t going to be able to do it later in life.

I would much rather be able to get up off the floor if I fall, than leg press 400lbs, but maybe that is just me.

These exercises are going to allow you to start moving in ways you haven’t before, decrease risk of shoulder injuries and actually allow you to get stronger. If you can’t move in all planes of movement that your body is intended to move in…then you can’t actually move!

Whew, okay. I hope these help you get some relief from shoulder, upper back pain and increase your mobility. Besides, better posture isn’t a bad side-effect either!


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Haley Rowe September 19, 2019