Skip to content

6 Shoulder Mobility Exercises and Stretches to Unlock Shoulder Flexibility 

    Increasing your shoulder mobility will improve your shoulder strength and enable you to bounce back from injuries quicker. Regular stretching will help you avoid injuries and recover better from an intensive workout.

    Flexible shoulders are crucial to gym enthusiasts who want to progress in their training. 

    Doing the right exercises can be beneficial in increasing your mobility. We built this list of shoulder mobility exercises and stretches based on recommendations from professionals.

    Shoulder Mobility Exercises and Stretches

    Spending just a few minutes every day stretching your shoulders will help improve your overall flexibility and enable you to be more active. 

    Regularly spending time stretching can improve your posture, enable you to push harder at the gym, and overall decrease pain and tension in your shoulders.

    In addition, when you mindfully spend time stretching and focusing on mobility exercises, you are training your body to handle heavier weights and more challenging workouts. 

    See the table below if you are in a hurry to see the best items to help you with shoulder stretches and exercises.

     

    The six shoulder mobility exercises and stretches to unlock shoulder flexibility are:

    • Standing Arm Swings
    • High To Low Rows
    • Rotation With Dumbbell 
    • Quadruped Shoulder Circles
    • L-Arm Stretch 
    • Cross Arm Stretch 

    Also, see 30 Best Shoulder Workouts for Bigger Delts and Build Bigger Traps and gow your shoulders fast posts for more tips.  

    Most of us develop bad posture and poor shoulder flexibility due to a lack of exercise and sitting for hours while working.

    Flexible shoulders will allow you to push harder at the gym and improve your form.

    You will also notice that the more you increase the flexibility and mobility of your shoulders, the less likely you are to experience stiffness after a challenging workout. 

     

    1. Standing Arm Swing 🏋️‍♀️

    Sanding Arm Swing

    Standing arm swings are a dynamic exercise and are great to incorporate as a warmup before you begin your workout or a stretch after training.

    Standing arm swings increase your upper back and shoulder mobility as a bonus. Start by standing with a good posture and steady your breathing. 

    Your feet should be a shoulder-width apart. Then place your arms next to your sides, and pull your shoulders back.

    Next, swing your arms forward as high as possible and bring them back to the starting position.

    Don’t break your momentum as you swing your arms. Throughout your movement, you should focus on keeping your core engaged.

    At first, you can move your arms slowly and then build up to a moderate speed. Swing your arms forward ten times, and when done, swing your arms backward ten times.

    You can also do this movement for 60 seconds before beginning your workout routine, which will give you a significant cardio boost. 

    Standing arm swings are beneficial if you feel any pain or stiffness in your shoulders or back. 

    This movement engages your upper body muscles, including your chest, shoulders, and back and it is easy for beginners to do

     

    2. High to Low Rows 🤸‍♀️

    High to Low Rows

    Alan Snyder, a licensed physical therapist, recommends high to low rows to improve and increase your shoulder stability and benefit your thoracic muscles and upper back.

    You can use either a cable machine or a resistance band to do this exercise. 

    Here are our top three recommended resistance bands you can buy.

    Preview
    Best Overall
    A AZURELIFE Resistance Bands, Professional Non-Latex Elastic Exercise Bands, 5 ft. Long Stretch Bands for Physical Therapy, Yoga, Pilates, Rehab, at-Home or The Gym Workouts, Strength Training
    Best Alternative
    Hoocan Resistance Bands Set, Long Exercise Bands for Arms, Shoulders, Legs and Butt, Workout Stretch Bands for Physical Therapy, Gym, Yoga
    Best Price
    HAIBEI Resistance Bands Elastic Exercise Bands 3 Pack Physical Therapy Tension Band Recovery Band Workout Strength Training Bands for Women, Yoga, Arms,Upper Body and Shoulders (Red Yellow Green)
    Product Name
    AZURELIFE Resistance Bands
    Hoocan Resistance Elastic Exercise Bands
    HAIBEI Resistance Bands Elastic Exercise Bands
    Material
    Latex
    Rubber
    Natural Rubber
    Dimension
    5 Feet x 6 Inches wide
    59 inch Long x 5.9 inch wide
    ‎6 x 6 x 0.6 inches
    Number of Items
    3
    3
    3
    Sport Type
    Exercise And Fitness/Pilates/Yoga
    Physical Therapy/Yoga/Pilates/Rehab/Fitness/Strength Training
    Strength Training/Exercise And Fitness/Stretching/Pilates/Yoga
    Best Overall
    Preview
    A AZURELIFE Resistance Bands, Professional Non-Latex Elastic Exercise Bands, 5 ft. Long Stretch Bands for Physical Therapy, Yoga, Pilates, Rehab, at-Home or The Gym Workouts, Strength Training
    Product Name
    AZURELIFE Resistance Bands
    Material
    Latex
    Dimension
    5 Feet x 6 Inches wide
    Number of Items
    3
    Sport Type
    Exercise And Fitness/Pilates/Yoga
    Interested?
    Best Alternative
    Preview
    Hoocan Resistance Bands Set, Long Exercise Bands for Arms, Shoulders, Legs and Butt, Workout Stretch Bands for Physical Therapy, Gym, Yoga
    Product Name
    Hoocan Resistance Elastic Exercise Bands
    Material
    Rubber
    Dimension
    59 inch Long x 5.9 inch wide
    Number of Items
    3
    Sport Type
    Physical Therapy/Yoga/Pilates/Rehab/Fitness/Strength Training
    Interested?
    Best Price
    Preview
    HAIBEI Resistance Bands Elastic Exercise Bands 3 Pack Physical Therapy Tension Band Recovery Band Workout Strength Training Bands for Women, Yoga, Arms,Upper Body and Shoulders (Red Yellow Green)
    Product Name
    HAIBEI Resistance Bands Elastic Exercise Bands
    Material
    Natural Rubber
    Dimension
    ‎6 x 6 x 0.6 inches
    Number of Items
    3
    Sport Type
    Strength Training/Exercise And Fitness/Stretching/Pilates/Yoga
    Interested?

     

    If you use a resistance band, start by finding a secure spot to place the band above shoulder height.

    Next, kneel on one knee, and keep a good posture. Using a yoga mat or a towel to protect your knee is best.

    Take the resistance band with the opposite hand to the knee that is kneeling. 

    Slowly pull the band towards your body, hold this position for two seconds, and straighten your arm again.

    Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together as you bring your arm towards your body.

    Repeat this movement on your opposite arm and change which knee is kneeling on the ground. 

    High to Low Rows

    If you are using a cable machine, attach a single-handed grip onto the top cable and bring the cable to the machine’s center.

    See our top three cable machines below if you need to get one.

    Preview
    Overall Best
    XMARK Functional Trainer Cable Machine with Dual 200 lb Weight Stacks, 19 Adjustments, and Accessory Package XM-7626
    Best Alternative
    Body-Solid Powerline PFT100 Functional Trainer Cable Machine, Dual 160 Lb. Weight Stacks
    Best Budget
    Valor Fitness BD-61 Cable Crossover Station with LAT Pull, Row Bar, and Multi-Grip Pull-Up Station
    Product Name
    XMARK Functional Trainer Cable Machine
    Body-Solid Powerline PFT100 Cable Machine
    Valor Fitness BD-61 Cable Crossover Station
    Weight
    Dual 200 lb Weight Stacks
    Two 160 lb. weight stacks
    Max weight of 250 Pounds
    Adjustments
    19 Settings
    20 Settings
    17 Settings
    Dimensions
    86.2 x 36.2 x 8.9 inches
    ‎42.3 x 62.6 x 83 inches
    ‎80 x 7 x 7 inches
    Accessories
    Hand straps, long strap handles, triceps rope, short bar, long bar, leg extension leg curl strap, and ankle strap.
    Chinning bar and two weight stacks.
    Not Stated
    Overall Best
    Preview
    XMARK Functional Trainer Cable Machine with Dual 200 lb Weight Stacks, 19 Adjustments, and Accessory Package XM-7626
    Product Name
    XMARK Functional Trainer Cable Machine
    Weight
    Dual 200 lb Weight Stacks
    Adjustments
    19 Settings
    Dimensions
    86.2 x 36.2 x 8.9 inches
    Accessories
    Hand straps, long strap handles, triceps rope, short bar, long bar, leg extension leg curl strap, and ankle strap.
    Interested?
    Best Alternative
    Preview
    Body-Solid Powerline PFT100 Functional Trainer Cable Machine, Dual 160 Lb. Weight Stacks
    Product Name
    Body-Solid Powerline PFT100 Cable Machine
    Weight
    Two 160 lb. weight stacks
    Adjustments
    20 Settings
    Dimensions
    ‎42.3 x 62.6 x 83 inches
    Accessories
    Chinning bar and two weight stacks.
    Interested?
    Best Budget
    Preview
    Valor Fitness BD-61 Cable Crossover Station with LAT Pull, Row Bar, and Multi-Grip Pull-Up Station
    Product Name
    Valor Fitness BD-61 Cable Crossover Station
    Weight
    Max weight of 250 Pounds
    Adjustments
    17 Settings
    Dimensions
    ‎80 x 7 x 7 inches
    Accessories
    Not Stated
    Interested?

     

    With the cable machine, use the same stance and movement as you would for the resistance band, and choose a weight lighter than you normally use for a workout. 

    For this movement to be effective, you should complete at least ten reps on each side for three sets.

    High to low rows are a great exercise to incorporate into your workout regime and can be used as a warmup to prepare your shoulders properly. 

     

    3. Rotation With Dumbbells 🏋️‍♂️

    Rotation With Dumbbells

    Rotations with dumbbells are a favorite warmup exercise for many athletics, and experts recommend that you do this mobility exercise before lifting a heavy item.

    Rotation with dumbbells increases your shoulder mobility and improves your ability to exercise. 

    Begin by placing your feet a shoulder-width apart, and hold a lighter dumbbell than you would typically use.

    Use only one hand, and allow your free arm to hang next to your body.

    With the dumbbell, lift your arm at a 90-degree angle, and your elbow is parallel to the floor. Your palm must face the floor. 

    Rotation With Dumbbells

    Rotate your arm upwards so your palm faces the ceiling, and slowly bring your arm back down into the starting position.

    Repeat this movement a minimum of ten times before switching to your other hand and repeating this exercise. 

    Focus on completing the same number of reps on each side, as an unequal number of reps could imbalance your shoulders.

    Here are our top three adjustable dumbells you can use for this exercise and more.

    Preview
    Best Quality
    Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (pair)
    Best Plates
    Lifepro Adjustable Dumbbell - 5-in-1, 25lb dumbell Adjustable Free Weights Plates and Rack - Hand Weights for Women and Men - Adjustable Weights, 5lb, 10lb, 15lb, 20lb, 25lb (25 Pounds - Pair)
    Best Connector Options
    Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells - 50 lb Dumbbell Weights (Pair)
    Product Name
    Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbell
    Lifepro Adjustable Dumbbell
    Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells
    Set Of Two Dumbbells
    Adjustable
    Wider Weight Range
    Up to 52.5 pounds
    Up to 25 pounds
    Up to 50 pounds
    Best Quality
    Preview
    Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (pair)
    Product Name
    Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbell
    Set Of Two Dumbbells
    Adjustable
    Wider Weight Range
    Up to 52.5 pounds
    Interested?
    Best Plates
    Preview
    Lifepro Adjustable Dumbbell - 5-in-1, 25lb dumbell Adjustable Free Weights Plates and Rack - Hand Weights for Women and Men - Adjustable Weights, 5lb, 10lb, 15lb, 20lb, 25lb (25 Pounds - Pair)
    Product Name
    Lifepro Adjustable Dumbbell
    Set Of Two Dumbbells
    Adjustable
    Wider Weight Range
    Up to 25 pounds
    Interested?
    Best Connector Options
    Preview
    Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells - 50 lb Dumbbell Weights (Pair)
    Product Name
    Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells
    Set Of Two Dumbbells
    Adjustable
    Wider Weight Range
    Up to 50 pounds
    Interested?
    Please note: as this is a mobility exercise and to avoid injury, you should use a much lighter weight than you usually would. 

    Ensure that your posture is good and that your shoulders are pulled back throughout the movement.

    Your form is essential as you can hurt yourself otherwise. If you struggle to control your movements, use a lighter or no weight until your form is correct. 

     

    4. Quadruped Shoulder Circles 🦾

    Quadruped Shoulder Circles

    Quadruped shoulder circles require you to get down onto your hands and knees, enabling you to increase or decrease the pressure you want on your shoulders.

    It is best to use a yoga mat, a towel, or find a soft surface to work on. 

    Here are some of our top recommended yoga mats to help protect your knees.

    Preview
    Overall Best
    Manduka PRO Yoga Mat – Premium 6mm Thick Mat, High Performance Grip, Support and Stability in Yoga, Pilates, Gym, Fitness, Extra Long, 85 Inches, Black Color
    Best Alternative
    IUGA Pro Non Slip Yoga Mat, Unbeatable Non Slip Performance, Eco Friendly and SGS Certified Material for Hot Yoga, Odorless Lightweight and Extra Large Size, Free Carry Strap
    Best Budget
    UMINEUX Yoga Mat Extra Thick 1/3'' Non Slip Yoga Mats for Women with Alignment Marks Eco Friendly TPE Fitness Exercise Mat with Carrying Strap & Storage Bag
    Product Name
    Manduka PRO Yoga Mat
    IUGA Pro Non Slip Yoga Mat
    UMINEUX Yoga Mat Extra Thick
    Thickness
    6MM
    5MM
    8MM
    Material
    Polyvinyl Chloride
    Polyurethane, Rubber
    TPE
    Weight
    ‎0.78 Kilograms
    2.5 lbs
    2.4 Pounds
    Dimensions
    85 x 26 x 0.24 inches
    85 x 26 x 0.24 inches
    72 x 24 x 0.31 inches
    Eco Friendly
    Overall Best
    Preview
    Manduka PRO Yoga Mat – Premium 6mm Thick Mat, High Performance Grip, Support and Stability in Yoga, Pilates, Gym, Fitness, Extra Long, 85 Inches, Black Color
    Product Name
    Manduka PRO Yoga Mat
    Thickness
    6MM
    Material
    Polyvinyl Chloride
    Weight
    ‎0.78 Kilograms
    Dimensions
    85 x 26 x 0.24 inches
    Eco Friendly
    Interested?
    Best Alternative
    Preview
    IUGA Pro Non Slip Yoga Mat, Unbeatable Non Slip Performance, Eco Friendly and SGS Certified Material for Hot Yoga, Odorless Lightweight and Extra Large Size, Free Carry Strap
    Product Name
    IUGA Pro Non Slip Yoga Mat
    Thickness
    5MM
    Material
    Polyurethane, Rubber
    Weight
    2.5 lbs
    Dimensions
    85 x 26 x 0.24 inches
    Eco Friendly
    Interested?
    Best Budget
    Preview
    UMINEUX Yoga Mat Extra Thick 1/3'' Non Slip Yoga Mats for Women with Alignment Marks Eco Friendly TPE Fitness Exercise Mat with Carrying Strap & Storage Bag
    Product Name
    UMINEUX Yoga Mat Extra Thick
    Thickness
    8MM
    Material
    TPE
    Weight
    2.4 Pounds
    Dimensions
    72 x 24 x 0.31 inches
    Eco Friendly
    Interested?

     

    Start by getting onto your haunches and placing your hands a shoulder-width apart directly underneath your shoulders.

    Quadruped Shoulder Circles2

    Next, place your knee’s under your hips.

    Press your palms to the floor, shrug your shoulders up to your ears, down towards your hips, and finally back to the starting position.

    This movement creates a full circle with your shoulders. 

    Complete ten shoulder circles before changing direction, and then do a further ten shoulder circles.

    To increase the pressure, you can push your palms harder into the ground, and be sure to listen to your body.

    Decrease the pressure if the movement hurts. 

    You can do more shoulder circles by focusing on one shoulder at a time and alternating between directions and shoulders..

     

    5. L-Arm Stretch 👌

    L-arm shoulder stretches are effective as the movement stretches your shoulder and upper back.

    At first, it might feel like an awkward position, but once you find a comfortable position, you will feel the benefits of this stretch. 

    It is best to use a yoga mat or towel.

    Lie on your stomach with one arm outstretched to your side, and bring your other arm under your chest with your palm facing the ceiling.

    You must control your shoulders and keep them from shrugging to your ears while bringing your arm across your chest.  

    Pull your chest down to the floor using your shoulder muscles, and use your outstretched arm to balance yourself.

    Hold this position for 30 seconds before alternating sides and repeating this movement. 

    Repeat this movement three times for the most effective results, alternating between each side of your body. 

     

    6. Cross Arm Stretch 🙋‍♂️

    Cross Arm Stretch

    The cross-arm stretch is one of the most well-known shoulder stretches, and you will likely remember it if you have played sports before.

    Cross arm stretch is an easy stretch to do and targets your rotator cuff muscles. 

    Start by standing straight and steady your breath.

    Your feet need to be slightly less than a shoulder-width apart, and bring your left arm to just under shoulder height.

    Use your right hand to slowly pull your left arm across your body, and your right hand should hold onto your elbow. 

    Keep this position for 30 seconds. Then alternate your arms.

    Repeat this movement three to five times to see effective results. 

     

    Tips to Maximise the Stretches to See Improved Mobility 🙆‍♂️

    ips-to-Maximise-the-Stretches

    While you will feel mild discomfort during your stretches, you should never be in pain.

    If you feel a sharp pain or the stretch begins to hurt more than mild discomfort, you should stop immediately and assess the source of the pain. 

    Seeing a physiotherapist or biokinetics is always beneficial as they are professionals.

    They can understand your unique needs and provide specialized exercises best for you.

    A professional will also teach you the correct form and show you the best ways to stretch. 

    Stretching before and after each workout is highly beneficial, and you can also start stretching for fifteen minutes on your rest days.

    It is best to start slowly with easier stretches and build up your abilities. 

    Tips to Maximise Stretches

    Static stretching is best after workouts as your muscles will be warm and more malleable.

    Incorporating dynamic mobility exercises before your workout is highly recommended by physiotherapists to warm up your shoulder muscles correctly. 

    Breathing through each stretch is highly beneficial and is recommended by professionals. Mindfully breathing will regulate your stress levels and nervous system.

    It will also bring you into the moment and help you focus on the movement. 

    Enhancing your mobility and flexibility will increase your range of motion, prevent injuries and increase your ability to improve your athletic performance. 

    Regularly stretching is further beneficial as it reduces your stress levels and tension. In addition, stretching decreases stiffness and alleviates pain in your muscles.  

    There are several exceptional exercises that you can incorporate into your workout regime and the exercises above.

    You must make an effort to increase your shoulder mobility and flexibility. You don’t need to spend hours stretching to see effective results. 

     

    Benefits of Shoulder Mobility Exercises 🕵️‍♂️

    Benefits of Shoulder Mobility Exercises

    Increasing your shoulder mobility is exponentially beneficial to your athletic performance and improving your day-to-day life.

    Conversely, poor shoulder mobility and flexibility are often due to a bad posture, stress, excessive exercise, and sitting for extended periods. 

    We all have formed bad habits, such as looking down at our phones for hours, scrolling on Instagram, and staring at our laptops while getting work done.

    Sitting in a hunched position leads to a humped back look and stiff shoulders. 

    Regularly stretching alleviates this pain and prevents tight shoulders from occurring.

    stretching-alleviates-pain

    Mobility and flexibility are further essential aspects of your training to help prevent injuries.

    Stretching and mobility exercises are vital if your goal is to lift heavier and improve your endurance. 

    You won’t be able to progress with more demanding workouts and heavier weights if you can’t use your shoulder joints and muscles correctly.

    Lifting heavy weights when your shoulders lack mobility or flexibility can seriously damage your shoulder tendons. 

    As a bonus, increasing your shoulder mobility and flexibility enables you to be more active in your daily life.

    For example, you can pick your children up for longer, carry more groceries more easily in one trip, and even help move heavy objects. 

    Regularly stretching and adding mobility exercises into your routine will decrease shoulder pain and stiffness that 18-26% of people regularly experience.

    Shoulder pain can hinder your daily life, making it difficult to complete even the most basic tasks. 

    Spending time mindfully stretching will help you release tension throughout your body, which will lower your stress levels. 

     

    Conclusion 🤗

    Stretches to Unlock Shoulder Flexibility 

    We hope you enjoyed this list of shoulder mobility exercises and stretches.

    Stretching will significantly benefit your shoulder flexibility and mobility and positively impact your life.

    The more flexible your shoulders are, the easier it will be for you to complete daily tasks and perform well at the gym

    You will even find that regularly stretching will decrease your stress levels and alleviate tensions and stiffness in your body.

    Additionally, stretching will improve your posture, which will decrease pain in your shoulders in the long term. 

    See Chest Workout With or Without Weights for more tips.

    Last update on 2022-10-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

    nv-author-image

    James Wright

    James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    I accept the Privacy Policy