shoulder mobility exercises

A Physical Therapist Shares 7 Mobility Shoulder Exercises to Improve Your Range of Motion

When it comes to orthopedic injuries, shoulder issues are incredibly common. In fact, after low back pain, shoulder pain is one of the most frequently seen problems in doctors’ offices.

This is due to the unique structure of the shoulder, which is a ball and socket joint. Because the shoulder has so much mobility as a ball and socket joint, it is susceptible to various injuries. 

Luckily, you can effectively avoid many shoulder ailments by working on your shoulder mobility.

shoulder mobility exercises

In this article, we’ll review 7 of the most effective exercises to keep your shoulders strong and mobile. 

1. Shoulder Circles

This is an active range of motion exercise that emphasizes the extremes of the shoulder’s range. By performing this exercise regularly, you can improve end-range strength and bulletproof your shoulders.

How to Perform

  • Lift your arms up straight in front of you, your thumb pointing toward the ceiling.
  • Continue in this direction, rotating your arm behind you until it is returned to your side, completing a full circle.
  • Then, reverse the motion.
  • Complete 10 circles in each direction per session.

2. Upper Trap Stretch with Shoulder Distraction

Distraction refers to pulling the joint along its long axis. By distracting the shoulder while you stretch the upper trap, you can get a deeper, more effective stretch in this region.

How to Perform

  • In a seated position, place your left hand under the chair, right next to your left thigh.
  • Lean to the right and bend your head to the right as well.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 4 times per side, per session.

3. Reach-Through Stretch

The posterior, or back, portion of the shoulder is tight on many people. This stretch emphasizes the deep structures on the back of the shoulder.

How to Perform

  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • Place the back of your right hand on the floor, under your chest.
  • Slide your right hand to the left, allowing your body to rotate as you do so.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 4 times per side, per session.

4. Chest and T-Spine Opener

The pecs can be very restrictive, especially for those who work at a desk all day. Likewise, the thoracic spine often loses range of motion as a result of our day-to-day activities. Performing this stretch solves both of these issues at once!

How to Perform

  • Lie on your right side, with your hands and legs stacked on top of one another. 
  • Keeping your left arm straight and your legs stacked, rotate your upper body to the left, attempting to bring your left shoulder blade, forearm, and hand to the ground.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 4 times per side per session.

5. Pec Stretch on Wall

As was mentioned in the previous exercise, the pecs are particularly tight structures for many people. The standing pec stretch is a great option for addressing this problem.

How to Perform

  • Place your right hand on a wall or doorway.
  • Keeping your right arm straight, rotate to the left.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 4 times per side per session.

6. Child’s Pose

Child’s pose is an awesome move for back pain, leg stiffness, and, of course, shoulder pain. This stretch is very relaxing and is used at the end of many yoga classes to allow people to clear their minds as they stretch.

How to Perform

  • Place the hands and knees on the floor.
  • Sit back so that your buttocks are resting on your heels.
  • Reach your arms as far forward on the ground as you can.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 4 times per session.

7. Towel Roll Pec Stretch

Something as simple as a rolled-up towel can go a long way towards creating an effective stretch. This move feels so good, that you’ll want to do it all day long!

How to Perform

  • Place a rolled-up towel along your upper spine.
  • Lie down on the ground on the towel.
  • Allow your arms to spread out to the sides, opening your chest.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 4 times.


Shoulder pain and dysfunction impact many people’s lives. But the stretches outlined above will give you the best chance to avoid shoulder issues and live your life without pain! Try this routine out 3-5 times per week and see how you feel!

Works Cited

  1. López-Laval I, Sitko S, Cantonero J, Corbi F, Cirer-Sastre R. The Effectiveness of Shoulder Mobility and Strength Programs in Competitive Water-Polo Players. Life (Basel). 2022 May 20;12(5):758. doi: 10.3390/life12050758. PMID: 35629424; PMCID: PMC9145995.
  2. Murphy RJ, Carr AJ. Shoulder pain. BMJ Clin Evid. 2010 Jul 22;2010:1107. PMID: 21418673; PMCID: PMC3217726.

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