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Improving Shoulder Flexibility

We took a break last month with a couple ideas to beat the summer heat.

This month, we’re going to finish up our five-part mobility series and address improving shoulder flexibility

The shoulder joint has the largest range of motion in the body.  This ball-and-socket joint, when ignored, can get pulled out of a healthy position and present problems down the road when we try to use it for any general activity; painting the house, playing basketball on the weekends, pushups at home for a quick workout.

What I see is common in my line of work is the upper shoulders are generally tight, and the lats, mid-trapezius, and external shoulder rotator are weak.  This pulls on the scapula and can tilt it forward over time.  This forward tilt makes the upper shoulder tightness worse.  So we need to address what the scapula is doing during movement—especially during any pushing or pulling exercise.  Do the shoulders go up in your ears when you do any of these motions?

To be proactive and work on restoring and keeping alignment in the shoulder joint we’re going to use all the tools you’ve learned so far in our mobility series.

If following our posts over the past five months you’ve learned how to get to know the body better, different types of stretches, static and dynamic, rolling and self-tissue release, getting out your two-minute stretching timers for trouble areas

(if you haven’t, check the archives or visit

Not only have you learned about it, but you have adopted the daily habit of spending 10-15 minutes of mobility time in your routine.  By now it should be a habit and you look forward to your mobility time.

Now apply what you’ve learned to improve the range of motion in your shoulder.

You will do this with three tools:

Stretching – rolling – movement; especially in the opposite areas of the tighter areas

To improve flexibility in your shoulder, stretch the shoulder from all different angles.

You will need to STRETCH the following muscles:

Chest, Lats, Biceps, Triceps, Traps, Neck, and Deltoids.

You will need to ROLL the following areas: (Remember to seek and destroy knots and trouble spots)

Chest (especially around the sternum and the thick bundles in the chest at the shoulder), Lats, Rhomboids, Teres major, Serratus anterior, Biceps, Triceps, and  Traps.

teres major-1



You will need to DO THESE MOVEMENTS daily: Scapular pushups, Shoulder Circles.

This is a great shoulder warm up video by Strength and Conditioning Coach, Eric Cressey at Cressey Performance

For tight upper shoulders, adding in Floor Cobras and Wall Angels to your exercise routing can help improve posture and bring the tension out of the upper traps and into the mid traps where it can stabilize the shoulder girdle better:

Floor Cobras

Wall Angels

wall angel-1


Keep your shoulder mobile and happy and it will improve the majority of your activities and exercise.

To your health!


ScottScott Isley
Courses in Diet and Exercise Physiology and Human Anatomy at UCLA
Scott has worked as a Personal Trainer and Fitness Coach for the past 10 years accumulating 8,000 hours helping clients get healthy. He currently runs his business out of Carlsbad, CA in San Diego. You can find out more by visiting:
Isley Personal Fitness on Facebook

Disclaimer: Use of the information contained in this site is at the sole choice and risk of the reader. The information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only.