3 Tips for Better Shoulder Mobility Exercises

Fix tight shoulders safely for improved strength and mobility

Mobility exercises for your shoulder joints are essential for preventing shoulder pain and tightness. The shoulder joint is prone to injury and chronically tight muscles. Without mobility training it is easy to end up with shoulder pain.

And shoulder pain isn’t fun!

I have torn both my left and right rotator cuff muscles (the supraspinatus tendon on both sides) and suffered shoulder dislocations during my years as a contortionist. Now I do daily shoulder mobility training and strengthening for the rotator cuff. This keeps my shoulder pain at bay.

I do still stretch my shoulder extension, but I always incorporate these three techniques to make sure that I’m maintaining stability and strength in the joint.

Mobility = flexibility + strength + control

Flexibility without mobility runs the risk of destabilizing the joint, especially for us folks with hypermobility.

Improve Shoulder Mobility When Stretching in Extension

Tip #1: Maintain shoulder alignment

If you can go really deep into a stretch but your alignment falls apart, don’t go to your end range. Hold your form even if the “stretch” feels more like a strengthening exercise for now.

Example: When in shoulder extension try to keep your arms externally rotated and your shoulder blades apart. You can go deeper with internal rotation and squashed shoulder blades but it wont be strong or stable.

If you are having a hard time finding this position, check out this video on using overcoming isometrics for increasing shoulder stability.

Tip #2: Don’t “Relax into the Stretch” when focusing on mobility

Relaxing too much will cause you to increase your range past your ability to control it, and this can lead to instability and injury. Instead, focus on low intensity resistance stretching where you gentle contract the muscles that are being stretched. That will teach your body to have control in this range.

Example: In this same overhead shoulder stretch, if I scoot my knees back a little I’m having to use the muscles that are being stretched (the latissimus dorsi) to hold my body weight. This means they are stretching AND working which builds stability with mobility.

Tip #3: Alternate stretching with active shoulder extension exercises

AROM exercises teach your body to move into the range you have created. This is building flexibility that you can access and use for cool stuff like aerial, pole, yoga, handstands, and getting the cookie jar down off the top shelf

Example: After holding the gentle resistance stretch I can scoot my knees back in and switch to small lifts into that shoulder extension. I definitely wont be able to go as deep (active range is almost always less than passive) but this is expanding my useable, accessible range and keeping that shoulder healthy and badass. Read here to understand more about the difference between active and passive flexibility).

Please note that these techniques can be applied to any stretch, not just shoulder extension!

For a visual on how all of these tips look in action for a shoulder extension stretch, check out the video below.

And as always, happy bendings!

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