The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body.
And this versatility also makes it the most prone to injury.
Some shoulder injuries happen suddenly but most happen over time from repetitive motions.
In order to bulletproof our shoulders from injury and maintain full mobility, there are a few exercises I consider to be an essential part of any fitness routine.
Before we start the exercises, it helps to consider a few shoulder fundamentals.
From the shoulders is how we interact with the world around us
From an energetic perspective, the shoulders and arms are how we reach for what we want and say no to what we don’t want.
Shoulder mobility and stability are important because our shoulders are an important part of how we experience the present moment and the world around us.
Because we can grab, hug, hold and drop things from our arms, they carry a lot of decision making responsibility. And this is a big reason why so many of us hold tension here.
When we have limited range of motion or pain in our shoulders, it’s challenging to focus on anything other than the discomfort and limitation. This takes us away from the present and holds us back from fully engaging in our experiences.
By becoming more attuned to how our shoulders feel and move, we become able to respond to changes and imbalances proactively. This heightened awareness can extend beyond the shoulders and positively impact our overall physical and mental well-being.
Less tension in the shoulders = more freedom to make choices that align with our best self.
Balance Stability and Mobility
The shoulders need both mobility and stability in order to contribute to better posture and alignment. The shoulders ability to move around in a circle or brace against resistance is crucial for overall body mechanics and to be able to do functional movements like; reaching up into a high cupboard or reaching into the backseat of the car for a bag.
If the shoulders lack mobility - your range of motion will be limited and surrounding areas of the neck, elbows or even lower back may take the brunt of the strain.
If your shoulders lack stability - anytime you need to push, pull or pick something up, you put yourself at risk for injury.
Shoulder exercises are an excellent opportunity to practice mindful breathing and intentional movements.
Deliberate movements help us stay attuned to the progress in our shoulders and allows us to adjust movements or intensity based on any limitations.
How to test shoulder mobility (range of motion)
Before attempting any weight bearing shoulder exercises, you can use this three-part, shoulder mobility test to determine your range of motion.
This can safely be done at home and only takes a few minutes.
- Stand facing a wall, with your toes touching it. Then slowly reach one arm over your head to touch the wall in front of you with the flat of your palm.
- Next, slowly bring your hand down to touch the back of your head.
- Last, bring the arm down your side and try to reach it behind you to touch the opposite shoulder blade with the back of your hand.
Repeat with the other side.
Trouble with any of these movements could mean that you could benefit from some mobility exercises before continuing with weights.
Increase weight and resistance over time
Gradually increasing weight and intensity over time is essential.
One of the most common causes of injury occurs when people return to a familiar sport or activity after a period of inactivity and try to pick up where they left off.
If the shoulders aren’t properly prepared, a sudden increase in workload can easily result in painful strain or sprain.
Allow time to rest and reset.
It’s important to listen to our joints.
Inflammation or soreness means it’s time for a break. Many minor shoulder issues can resolve on their own after a few days. Use ice to relieve aches and bring down swelling.
We can rebalance our shoulders by incorporating both pushing and pulling movements. Pushing movements, like holding plank position, help stabilize the humerus and strengthen the muscles in the front of the body.
Pulling movements, such as hanging from a pull up bar or doing a row, help mobilize the rotator cuff and strengthen the muscles in the back of the upper body.
Have a strong support system
Another way to reduce strain on the shoulder joint is to have a strong core. The shoulders require a wide support system of connected stabilizer muscles to safely handle heavy loads and perform basic movements, such as raising the arms overhead.
If the shoulders are connected to a strong core, there is less strain on the shoulder joint and less risk of injury.
Keep reminding yourself to relax and drop your shoulders. Follow along with this free shoulder strengthening video you can do at home.
3 Shoulder Exercises to Improve Your Posture
- Scapula Slides - get your shoulder blades to slide and glide across your back. Up and down. Out and in.
- Circles - your arm attaches into your shoulder and creates a ball-n-socket joint. This joint type loves circles. Check out the first exercises in this video 5 Minute Shoulder Mobility
- Reach your arms behind your back. Yes. It is that simple. If you are unable to grab your hands together behind your back, grab opposite ends of a strap or towel. Lift your arms up away from your back. And take 5 slow deep breaths.
You deserve to feel good in your body.
Mindful movement will help. Go slow. Listen to your body. And breathe.
Hi I’m Jessi,
For the past 10 years, I’ve been helping people of all ages & fitness levels reframe their relationship with movement. As a Holistic Fitness Trainer, I not only train people’s bodies, I also help them shift their mindsets to see movement as a tool for mental well being & physical vitality.
My goal is to provide accessible health & fitness content in a welcoming space. I simplify how the body works to help you stay active & injury-free.
There is no one-size-fits-all, but there are building blocks that we all can use to better understand what our body needs, so we can design movement regimens that work for each of us.
My coaching style focuses on strong foundations of body awareness & stabilization. I combine techniques from Yoga, Pilates, Strength Training, Massage Therapy & Mindfulness to craft well thought out & customized training plans to support all clients. To read more about my certifications, click here.