The shoulder joint is the most versatile joint in the human body. For all kinds of athletic feats, a healthy shoulder joint is the basis of incredible upper-body power. But if your shoulder mobility is not close to your full potential, your overall fitness is significantly limited.
If you’re active or an athlete, joint maintenance needs to be at the top of your to-do list. With that said, shoulder flexibility and upper back range of motion hold prime spots while keeping your joints healthy.
From more power output to a decreased risk of injury, daily mobility isn’t something to be overlooked or brushed aside.
Over time, joints are usually the first victim of ill maintenance. If you’ve fallen prey to decreased shoulder mobility, find out what caused it and how to fix it right now.
Learn the most common causes of feeling stiff in your shoulders or upper back. Plus, when you practice the following easy-to-learn exercises and tips, you’ll find yourself feeling more flexible and resilient in no time!
Causes of Shoulder Mobility Dysfunction – What Went Wrong?
Although everyone has a unique life, there are many similarities as to why our shoulders and upper-backs become tight.
Nowadays, many people have routines that revolve around being hunched over – driving, sitting at work, and glued to smartphones and computers.
Others lift regularly but never give the idea of stretching a second thought. Or, your shoulders may start to ache during the day seemingly out of nowhere.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
The lack of shoulder mobility comes down to a lack of shoulder movement. “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” is dead accurate when it comes to your shoulder mobility. Your thoracic, rotator cuff, and scapular regions are all affected if not given the proper attention.
The direct causes of your shoulder immobility may not be so obvious at first.
Years can go by of the same limited range of motion that feels as if life is completely normal. Then slowly, you have shoulder pain or find that touching your hands behind your back isn’t a thing anymore.
But it doesn’t have to be that way – it is vital to at least acknowledge your shoulder mobility has become limited over time.
Why You Need to Improve Shoulder Mobility
Our shoulder joints are capable of moving ten various ways – the highest number of all human joints. For your shoulders, great versatility comes with great responsibility.
Preventing or recovering from shoulder injuries are crucial since it affects probably 80% of your training regimen’s workouts.
Healthy shoulders and a fit upper back bring a handful of benefits.
Improved posture and a greater range of motion while weight lifting are two remarkable gains that can change your life.
In the long-term, fixing your shoulder problems now will help you age gracefully when heavy lifting or other feats of athleticism are no longer options in life.
The longer you stay upright and moving, the better maintained your spine health will be.
When to Implement Shoulder Mobility Training
Before we get into specific shoulder mobility exercises, make a plan of when you can add it to your weekly or daily mobility schedule.
When you train your upper body such as back, chest, arms, or even full-body, follow up with a focused shoulder mobility cool-down.
If you’re short on time, performing these exercises on a rest day from vigorous exercise or at a separate time in the day is beneficial too.
Simply, don’t get hung up on exactly when you complete shoulder flexibility, but focus on being consistent and putting the work in.
And of course, these exercises are not meant to be vigorous or felt as intense. Ideally, they are designed to provide an element of recovery post-workout. But keep in mind, there is no need to feel that you absolutely have to do these after working out.
So listen to your body – if doing these exercises before your workout feels better, your shoulders will appreciate the acknowledgment.
Effective Shoulder and Overhead Mobility Exercises
Relaxed Bar Hanging
With both hands, hang from a pull up bar. Focus on letting your spine and head sink deep as they can into the pull of gravity.
In turn, your shoulders will rise next to your ears or higher. You should feel your spine elongate too.
If you back “pops” such as when you bend backward or receive a chiropractic adjustment, that is normal. It is only the vertebrae decompressing which can be quite relaxing, which is perfect for increasing your thoracic mobility.
Hang for at least 20-30 seconds to start.
If you’re struggling to hang for that amount of time to start with, try an assisted hang.
You may find an assisted pull up machine at your gym. At home, you can place a chair underneath the bar for hanging support.
Rotating your shoulders in a controlled manner is a good gauge to tell how much rotator cuff mobility you have.
Start by standing straight up and extend your arms laterally. Rotate your arms and hands in circles at least 20 times, then reverse.
Open or close your fists to whatever feels best to you in the moment. This is an excellent exercise to experiment with, so feel free to make variations of it. Make big circles or small, centered ones to change it up and train a full range of motion.
Although it is simple, perform this exercise consistently to see how much more at ease over time it is to rotate your shoulders.
More control, fluidity, and overall shoulder mobility are small wins that add up big over time!
Door Frame Stretch
One of many scapula exercises, you can perform this stretch anywhere!
Place your hand parallel to a door frame, while keeping your elbow a bit higher than your shoulder.
If you chose to stretch your right side first, then step with your left foot through the doorway. Almost like a lunge position, allow your weight to lean forward through your left leg.
Advanced Overhead Shoulder Mobility
If you have the grip strength to hang from a pull up bar one-handed for at least 15 seconds, try this out. Great for scapula mobility, this exercise is a solid warmup or cool-down for heavy compound lifts such as deadlifts and bench press.
Start with both hands pronated and gripping the bar. Release your left hand and let it hang for one second.
When you do this, your body will naturally swing to the right with momentum. Then, switch sides and grip the bar with your left while simultaneously releasing the right.
Make sure your elbows do not bend to purely target scapula mobility. Try this for 30 seconds if you can – it is fun to swing side to side!
Ease Into Your Shoulder Mobility Exercises and Training
Don’t rush your shoulder joint mobility progress – it takes time and patience.
If you feel you need to back off a certain exercise or stretch depth, always listen to your body. Remember, these shoulder mobility sessions should not be painful, but rather opening and expanding.