Shoulder Flexibility Exercises

by Nick Ng

About Nick Ng

Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.



Shoulders have the greatest mobility of any joint in the body. This mobility makes them prone to injury, joint problems and stiffness. According to Vern Gambetta, director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems, shoulders are part of the myofascial sling system that produces rotational movement, or the kind of movement needed to throw a ball. This sling system consists of connective tissues that surround the shoulders and connect with other tissues in the back muscles, hips, outer thighs and inner thighs. Therefore, when training shoulders, you should integrate them with other body parts to increase strength, stability and mobility, and minimize risk of injuries.

Arm Swings

This dynamic stretch moves the shoulder in all planes of motion and should be done before exercising. This helps increase blood flow, body temperature and tissue extensibility. Do all three exercises consecutively. Hold all stretches for 20 to 30 seconds. For each exercise, swing for about 30 seconds or until you feel loose and warm. Relax your hands and fingers throughout the exercises. Swing one arm to the front and one to the back, alternating the swing in a rhythm. Then swing arms across the chest and over the head in a criss-cross pattern. Finish the series by swinging the arms across the body with torso rotation like a pendulum.


These basic shoulder stretches work all major muscles and fascia of the shoulder joints. Like the arm swings, do all three stretches consecutively. For the anterior shoulders, relax the right shoulder and place the right arm behind your back. With the left hand, pull the hand across the back as far as possible, keeping the right elbow bent. Simultaneously, stand taller and straighten the right elbow to increase the stretch. Do the same for both shoulders. In the next exercise, start in the same position as the anterior shoulder stretch, but pull the right arm down toward the left leg instead of across the back. For the posterior shoulder stretch, bring the right arm across the chest and relax the right shoulder. Draw the left arm's elbow crook to the right elbow to assist extending the stretch. Keep the right arm straight and hold.

Lateral Stretch With Twist

This exercise stretches the entire lateral fascia that runs from the upper shoulders to the upper part of the outer thigh. The upper body twist moves the thoracic spine and shoulders and improves their mobility. Stand about arm-distance away from a pole, doorjamb or sturdy support and bend sideways to grab it with both hands. As you push your hip away from the support, reach the lower arm across the body, without moving hips and legs, to twist. Return to start position and repeat until you feel loose. If one side is tighter than the other side, do an extra on the tight side.

References (2)

  • "Pain-Free Program"; Anthony Carey; 2005
  • "Stretch to Win"; Ann and Chris Frederick; 2006

Photo Credits:

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or