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Shoulder Mobility Exercises


With 17 muscles attaching to the scapula including 9 that will cross the glenohumeral joint, maintaining proper shoulder motion is a combination of flexibility within these muscles and adequate mobility of the joint capsule and surrounding ligaments. Here are a few of our favorites to adjust some of the most common areas of restriction:


  • Sleeper stretch: Internal rotation is a motion that can frequently be limited while other shoulder motions continue to be at normal limits. This is typically caused by tightness within the posterior portions of the joint capsule. To complete this stretch lay on your side with a slight roll back to have as much contact between your shoulder blade and the table as possible. With your lower arm extended out and elbow bent to 90 degrees use your top arm to apply light pressure on the back of your hand to move the forearm closer to the table.


  • Doorway Pec stretch: the pectoralis muscles are one of the primary movers of the upper body. They are highly susceptible to getting in individuals that do large amounts of work directly in front of them such as keyboarding. This tightness can lead to a rounding forward of the shoulders which subsequently limits overhead motions. To complete this stretch place the forearm on a doorframe with the elbow at about shoulder height. Take a small step through the doorway until a comfortable stretch is felt in your chest. Rotating away from your elevated arm will also increase the intensity of the stretch.


  • Kneeling Lat stretch: like the pecs, the latissimus dorsi is a major mover of the upper extremity. In order to achieve stretch in this muscle, the arm needs to be moved into a position of forward flexion as the lat is the primary shoulder extensor (pulling muscle). Start in a kneeling position in front of a bed, couch, or table. Place your elbows on the surface and lean forward trying to drive your head between your arms. A stretch should be felt along the outer portions of the back up near the armpit.

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