Increase Your Shoulder Mobility With These Exercises

Stiff Shoulders? Try This Shoulder Mobility Routine

Shoulder Mobility Routine Pictures

The Shoulder Joint

The Shoulder Joint is one of the most complex structures in the body.  There are many intersecting bones and muscle structures which generate a large range of motion; more than any other joint in the body.  With that much free range, comes great risk, as it’s one of the most frequently injured parts of the body from AC joint separations, and separations to severe injuries like dislocations that can sometimes require surgical repair.

Examining The Shoulder Joint

The shoulder is known as the glenohumeral joint and is formed between the connecting ball-socket of the shoulder blade and upper arm bone, the scapula and humerus respectively.  Acting around this joint under the big muscles is the rotator cuff muscles; teres minor, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and subscapularis. The rotator cuff helps to stabilize the shoulder in the socket as well as perform medial and lateral rotation, and the supraspinatus helping to raise the arms (abduction).  Teres major, although not a rotator cuff muscle, adducts and medially rotates the shoulder joint.

Major Muscles Of The Shoulder Girdle

The major muscles acting on the shoulders are the deltoid muscles, which work to medially rotate and flex the arms.  The pectoralis muscles of the chest also have great influence as they insert onto the humerus, with the different fibers separately working to flex and extend the arm, while working together medially rotates and adducts the shoulder joint.  Under the pectoralis major is the pectoralis minor which works with the serratus anterior to stabilize the shoulder blade to the body. The latissimus dorsi muscles of the back also have influence on the shoulder as they insert in the humerus and help to perform adduction and medial rotation of the arm.

Shoulder Mobility Exercises

Impingement Release

Impingement Release Exercise

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and knees up, about shoulder width apart.  Place a lacrosse ball under the affected shoulder; above the shoulder blade and away from the spine, right in the belly of the trapezius muscle.  Using as much tolerable pressure as possible to release the tension, try to flex your arms back toward the floor as far as you can for about 15-20 reps, working to get the area moving and getting the shoulder blade to articulate properly.

Scapular Release

Scapular Release Exercise

Stand tall with a resistance band hooked in front of you, while you stretch your arm shoulder height holding the band.  Gently pull the band in while rotating your arm and feeling your shoulder blade retract and open your shoulder to assist with movement.  Now, provide resistance as the band goes back, allowing your serratus anterior muscle to articulate properly with your scapula. Do about 15-20 reps pushing and 15-20 reps pulling.

Wall Angels

Wall Angel Exercise

Stand feet together and back against a wall, with tall posture and minimal arch in the lower back.  Start with elbows at your sides and back of your arms touching the wall, and if you can the back of your hands as well.  Slowly reach your arms overhead until they are by your ears, but also maintaining contact with the wall and avoid excessive arching of the low back.  Exhale through the motion and perform about 15-20 reps. You can perform this lying on your back if you feel too much restriction while standing.

Internal/ External Rotation

Internal Rotation Exercise
External Rotation Exercise

Stand tall feet together, arm bent at the elbow to 90 degrees.  Have a resistance band in your hand with the resistance being to cause external rotation of your shoulder.  Keeping your arm tucked to your side, slowly breathe out and rotate your arm internally as much as you can, fighting the resistance.  Slowly return to starting position. To perform external rotation simply switch the load of the band so it is now internally pulling, and now do your best to open up your shoulder, keeping your elbow tucked in.  Perform 15-20 reps of each, internal and external rotation.

Pulldowns/ Rows

Cable Row Exercise

Using a band or cable row machine, you can perform standing or seated rows.  DO make sure the resistance is fairly light in order to focus on retracting the shoulder blades and allowing for rotation of the joint through the serratus anterior muscle.  Have your hands about shoulder width apart and twist them outward as you pull in to reinforce the rotation of the shoulder blade and surrounding muscle structure. Perform 15-20 reps, exhaling through the movement thoroughly.  

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