Shoulder Mobility Exercises: How to improve your shoulder mobility

Shoulder mobility is very much an overlooked aspect of general health, with our daily lives most commonly requiring us to sit at a desk with slouched shoulders and bad posture. Left unchecked this causes tightness in the shoulders and can result in aches and pains. This can also be a common complaint from gym goers who skip the mobility movements for a quick start to their gym sessions. Shoulder mobility exercises should however be just as important a part of arm day as the inevitable bicep curls in your session and here’s why…

 Benefits of practicing shoulder mobility

  1. Improved range of motion

  2. Improved posture 

  3. Injury prevention

  4. Reduces aches and pains

What is the difference between stretching and mobilising your shoulders?

It is important to distinguish the difference between stretching and mobilising your shoulders. Static stretches, where you hold a singular position for an amount of time, can assist your shoulders flexibility, however pre-exercise we want to go through the entire range of movement of that joint, preparing and mobilising it for the load it is about to undergo. This is where flexibility and mobility differ. To mobilise we put our shoulder through a range of movement as shown in the exercises listed below.
If you don’t use it, you will lose it!

5 Shoulder Mobility Exercises 

Shoulder Pass Throughs

Start by standing upright holding a PVC pipe in both hands so that it lies along your hip crease. Hold with a wide grip and ensure your shoulders are rolled back and not hunched. Begin by moving the PVC pipe from your hips, overhead and down to your lower back, keeping your arms locked out the whole way. If you find the movement difficult then adjust your grip wider on the PVC pipe, if the movement is too easy then adjust your grip to be narrower. Keep moving through this flow forwards and back for 10-15 reps.

Sleeper Stretch 

Lay on your side on the floor so that your hips and shoulders are stacked. Slightly bend your knees 45 degrees and bring the arm you are laying on out in front of you. Bend this arm 90 degrees so that the palm is facing the floor and use your other arm to gently press on this hand, bringing it closer to the floor. This should create a stretching feeling in the shoulder you are leaning on. As you press down on your hand, slowly rotate your body over your arm to lean further into the shoulder. Hold this for 2 minutes on each side. As you breathe out, slowly press your hand further towards the floor.

Bent-over shoulder opener

Find a wall/door for this one! Start by placing both palms flat on a wall straight out in front of you. Slowly bend forwards at the hips, keeping your arms where they are and press your head through your shoulders. Slowly pulse in this position, going lower into the stretch as you breathe out. You can do this for 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Doorway stretch

You’ll need a doorway for this one! Begin standing in the doorway and raise your arm up so that the height of your elbow is in line with your shoulder. Place your forearm upright along the doorframe. Position your feet so that they point forwards and slowly rotate your shoulders and hips away from your forearm. You should feel a stretch through the front of your shoulder. Pulse through this movement twisting further through your shoulder when you breathe out. Do this for 60-90 seconds.

Banded pull aparts

Grab a light band for this one! Pick the band up so that your arms are shoulder width apart and raised in front of you. Ensure your shoulders are rolled down and back and gently pull apart the band so that your arms come out to your side. Keep repeating, making sure to control the movement throughout. You can do this for 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Top Tips

Breathe into the movement

Work to a moderate stretch and not to pain

Don’t rush though the movement


It is important to note that if it is your first time trying these exercises then do not push the range of movement to extreme discomfort. You may find a pulling/tightness when you carry out these movements and that is good, but do not push this to a pain. The more you practice the movements the deeper into the range you will be able to go and so practice makes for perfect shoulder health! We recommend carrying out this routine 2-3 times weekly, even if it is part of a quick desk break during your working day or an addition to your morning routine.


Quick Questions

How can I improve my shoulder mobility?

You can improve your shoulder mobility by doing a daily routine of mobility exercises such as shoulder pass throughs, shoulder openers and banded pull aparts. We recommend doing these at least 2-3 times a week to keep on top of tight shoulders.

What causes poor shoulder mobility?

Poor shoulder mobility is caused most commonly by bad posture sustained from our everyday lives sitting for long periods of time. It is also caused by neglect before and post exercise so make sure to get the above exercises in as part of a daily routine.

What are 4 exercises for the shoulder?

We recommend shoulder pass throughs, the sleeper stretch, doorway stretch, banded pull aparts and shoulder openers. All dynamic movements to release tension in the shoulders and build strength in the joint.