Shoulder Mobility: 3 Movements to Practice

Shoulder pain is extremely common, and the number one reason people get shoulder pain is lack of mobility. It is essential to stretch your shoulders and practice mobility exercises in order to keep your shoulders healthy.

Shoulder discomfort is the second most common cause of chronic joint pain, according to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI).

Over 13 percent of people age 45 years and older live with this condition.

Therefore, it makes sense to improve your mobility to maintain your quality of life as you get older. Fortunately, it’s easy to do with some simple exercises.

These moves consist of gentle stretches and actions to avoid muscle strain or hyperextension.

But the shoulder is like any other part of your body. If you don’t exercise it, the muscles become tight and will contract over time.

Poor posture is another risk factor that can put unnecessary tension on the joint or cartilage. 

Let’s begin with an overview of the structure of this joint.

Shoulder Anatomy

The shoulder consists of the ball and socket joint between the humerus, or your upper arm bone, and your scapula or shoulder blade.

Several muscles, ligaments, and tendons support its movements including the deltoids and the rotator cuff.

Each one performs a specific function in the range of movement. Many will have multiple tasks.

  • Anterior Deltoid: abduction, flexion, transverse flexion, internal rotation
  • Lateral Deltoid: abduction, flexion, transverse abduction
  • Posterior Deltoid: extension, transverse extension, transverse abduction, external rotation
  • Supraspinatus: abduction, stabilization, internal rotation, external rotation
  • Infraspinatus: external rotation, transverse extension, transverse abduction, posterior stability, abduction
  • Teres minor: external rotation, transverse extension, transverse abduction, posterior stability
  • Subscapularis: internal rotation, posterior stability, anterior stability
  • Teres major: extension, adduction, internal rotation

As you can see, the shoulder is capable of a lot bending, flexing, straightening, and rotating. Exercises for mobility will involve different groups of muscles to keep your flexible.

The best mobility exercises will engage all of them in a series of movements. The various moves show you that more than one is necessary to work the entire area.

Shoulder Exercises

The three movements target specific areas with the shoulder region to improve mobility with a strength component.

The key to performing them correctly is to listen to your body. Don’t force any movement that is uncomfortable or painful.

You can do these exercises several times a week for the best results. Make sure and rest for a minute or so before moving onto the next.

Pendulum

The pendulum is a classic early rehabilitation move that engages six out of the eight shoulder muscles.

It doesn’t require any equipment other than a table for support. Begin by placing your right hand on it.

Lean forward as you step forward with your left leg. Be sure to keep your back straight and your knees soft.

Then, let your arm hang down at your side. Like a pendulum, you’ll move your arm back and forth in a gentle, non-jarring swinging motion 10 times in each direction.

Avoid any jerking movements. Next, move your arm around in a counterclockwise and a clockwise circle for 10 times each.

Repeat with your left arm, placing your right leg forward.

For an added health benefit, you can match the movement of your arm with your breath to create a meditative experience.

You’ll get the benefit of improving your shoulders’ mobility while giving yourself a welcome break from the tensions of the day.

Crossover Arm Stretch

The crossover arm stretch is an enjoyable and calming move that targets the posterior deltoid. It’s an excellent move anytime you need a break from desk work.

Like the pendulum, it is also used in rehabilitation of shoulder injuries. You don’t need any special equipment either. You can perform this exercise either standing or seated.

The key to getting the most from the move is to relax your shoulders completely before you begin. Then, extend your left arm across your body at mid-chest height.

Bend your right arm over your left and gently squeeze it toward your body. Don’t force the movement.

You feel a pleasing stretch across your back. Hold it for a few moments before releasing your arm.

Take some time to enjoy the contrast between the tension of the stretch and its release. Repeat the process with your right arm and your left bringing it toward your chest.

Pause to fully experience the stretch and release. The alternating of contracting and relaxing is a feature of body scan meditations. It may also provide pain relief.

Standing Row

The standing row differs from the previous two moves in several ways. First, it’s a strength training exercise that targets your back.

Second, your shoulder muscles support the movement while allowing the bigger muscles of your back to do the majority of the work. And finally, this one requires equipment.

You can do this exercise with a cable machine or with resistance bands. These types are preferable if you are recovering from an injury.

Weights are more appropriate after your shoulder has completely healed. However, resistance bands are an excellent type of equipment.

Their main benefit is the ability to isolate the muscles you engage.

Begin by standing about three feet from the anchor point of the cables or resistance bands. Alternatively, you can sit with your legs extended and the band looped around your feet.

Pull the band toward your body slowly while keeping your back straight. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you do the move.

Pause briefly before releasing. Repeat 10 times.

End your workout with some gentle stretches to cool down. For shoulder mobility, it’s better to stretch after you work out than before when your muscles are not used to the activity.

Even the simplest moves contribute to increasing your range of motion. That will make everyday tasks easier and reduce your risk of injury.

Optimal shoulder mobility is essential for a good quality of life. It allows you to perform everyday tasks as well as more advanced exercises that will challenge you.

Like all muscles, it boils down to a matter of use it or lose it.

These three moves will engage all of them to help you maintain the flexibility and range of motion necessary for both goals.

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