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6 Shoulder Mobility Exercises (Bulletproof Shoulders)

Unlock tight and painful shoulders with this guided routine – the best shoulder mobility exercises for strong and healthy shoulders. Protect your joints, increase range of motion, and reduce tightness and stiffness with this daily mobility routine. Each shoulder exercise includes beginner and advanced progressions.



 

Tight, rounded shoulders are extremely common – especially if you sit at a desk all day.

Good shoulder mobility can make your everyday movements easier, such as reaching for the top shelf or zipping a dress. Improving shoulder mobility can also directly improve your performance in strength training and HIIT workouts.

For example, limited shoulder mobility makes it difficult to pull the shoulders back and down during barbell back squats. This can increase pressure on the lower back, leading to back pain.

Taking the shoulder joint through its full range of motion with intention and control is an effective way to protect and maintain healthy shoulder joints and support pain-free movement.

Add these shoulder mobility exercises to your weekly routine to increase range of motion, improve posture, and boost athletic performance.

Woman performing a prone shoulder mobility exercises

Shoulder Mobility Exercises FAQs

What Causes Poor Shoulder Mobility?

Muscle imbalances, poor posture, previous injuries and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to more limited shoulder mobility. Additionally, medical issues such as a shoulder impingement, rotator cuff tears, or frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) can cause shoulder pain and lack of mobility.

How Often Should I Do Shoulder Mobility?

Most people benefit from adding mobility routines to their workout schedules between two and three times a week. If your shoulders are particularly tight and painful, you can add shoulder mobility drills to your daily routine. I also suggest adding arm and shoulder strength training to your weekly routine 1-2 times a week.

What Does “Bulletproof Shoulders” Mean?

“Bulletproof shoulders” is a term used to describe shoulders that are strong, stable, and resistant to injuries. Having bulletproof shoulders means having a high level of shoulder mobility, strength, and stability. This reduces the risk of rotator cuff and shoulder-related injuries, such as strains, sprains, and dislocations. The best way to prevent injury and “bulletproof” the shoulders is a combination of strengthening shoulder exercises and shoulder mobility exercises.

Woman performing external rotation as example of best shoulder mobility exercises

Improve mobility, reduce risk of injury, and get better range of motion during workouts with these daily shoulder mobility exercises.

I suggest incorporating mobility workouts like this one to your home workout plan 1-2 times per week to protect and maintain healthy joints and muscles.

Workout Equipment:

Optional light dumbbell, broomstick or PVC stick or towel.

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woman performing a standing shoulder stretch

Workout Instructions:

Follow along with these guided Shoulder Mobility Exercises on YouTubeled by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 6 Exercises for Shoulder Mobility
  • Timed Intervals (perform each exercise for around 60 seconds, repeating as needed)

Note: I’ll cue this in the video, but it’s important to actively keep your body from tensing up as you hold each pose. Focus on breathing into each mobility exercise, and think about “releasing” the tension in each muscle group to avoid clenching up.

Workout Outline

  1. Shoulder CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations)
  2. Shoulder Flossing
  3. Serratus Push Up
  4. Supine Wall Angels with 90/90 Rotations
  5. Prone Shoulder Swimmers
  6. Dumbbell External Rotations
Woman performing shoulder extension as part of shoulder mobility workout

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Shoulder Mobility

6 Shoulder Mobility Exercises

Shoulder CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations)

Targets: Deltoids (all three heads of the shoulder muscles) and rotator cuff muscles, lower back and upper back.

two women performing shoulder CARs as part of shoulder mobility exercises

How To Do Shoulder Controlled Articular Rotations

  1. Start standing, feet shoulder width apart, shoulders stacked over hips, slight bend in your knees.
  2. Inhale as you sweep your right arm up in front of your body, leading with your thumb and pausing when your hand is stacked over your shoulder. Aim to keep your right arm as straight as possible. Your right thumb is now pointing towards the back of the room.
  3. Exhale as you externally rotate through your right shoulder, rotating your right hand so right pinky is now pointing towards the back of the room. Slowly lower your arm behind your body, ending when your right fingers are near your right hip.

Shoulder Flossing

Targets: Upper back and middle back (thoracic spine), shoulders and pectoral muscles.

This shoulder mobility exercise opens tight shoulders, upper back and chest muscles, making it a perfect stretch for anyone who spends their day hunched over a computer.

two women performing shoulder flossing exercise as part of shoulder mobility routine

How To Do Shoulder Flossing

  1. Start standing, feet shoulder width apart, core engaged. Hold a broom, towel, resistance band or yoga strap between your hands in front of your hips, palms wider than shoulders. The more narrow your grip, the more intense this stretch will be.
  2. Keeping your arms as straight as possible, slowly raise your hands overhead, then slowly lower them behind you, reaching down towards your lower back.
  3. Slowly and with control, reverse the movement, lifting your arms straight overhead and then in front of you, ending in front of your hips.

Modification: Increase the intensity by finding a more narrow grip on your broom, towel or yoga strap. Decrease the intensity by reducing range of motion, stopping the movement when your arms are straight overhead.

Serratus Push Up

Targets: Serratus anterior muscle, rotator cuff muscles, pectoralis major, and pectoralis minor.

Scapular protractions pull the shoulder blades laterally away from each other, increasing shoulder mobility and improving scapular stability.

two women performing scapular retractions as part of shoulder mobility exercises

How To Do Serratus Push Ups

  1. Start in a high plank position; shoulders stacked over wrists, core engaged. Pull your kneecaps up towards your belly, feet hip-width apart.
  2. Inhale, slightly lowering your chest towards the mat, pulling your shoulder blades together.
  3. Exhale, pressing evenly through the fingers to raise your chest, pulling shoulder blades apart and returning to starting position.

Modification: Perform this exercise from a quadruped position if holding a plank is too intense.

Supine Wall Angels with 90/90 Rotations

Targets: Rotator cuff, trapezius (traps), and latissimus dorsi (lats).

two women performing supine snow angels as part of shoulder mobility workout

How To Do Supine Wall Angels with 90/90 Rotations

  1. Start lying on your back, feet flat on the ground and arms extended straight overhead. Fingers resting on the mat, palms facing up.
  2. Aiming to keep your arms touching the ground, slowly slide your arms down until your elbows are in line with your shoulders, “goal-posting” your arms. Both elbows are bent at 90 degrees.
  3. Then, keeping your elbows on the ground, raise your palms up off the mat, wrists stacked directly over elbows.
  4. With control, continue lowering your palms until they touch the ground near your hips, keeping your elbows pressed into the mat throughout the entire movement.
  5. Reverse the movement, palms first coming up, then rotating open as you bring them to touch the mat near your head before pressing overhead.

Modification: Perform this move from a standing position if lying on your back is uncomfortable.

Prone Shoulder Swimmers

Targets: Deltoids (all three heads of the shoulder muscles), rotator cuff muscles, lower back and upper back.

If you sit at a desk all day and feel your shoulders rounding, this stretch is for you. A complete shoulder mobility exercise to increase range of motion and stability in the shoulder joint.

two women performing prone shoulder swimmers exercise

How To Do Prone Shoulder Swimmers

  1. Start lying on your belly, legs out long, elbows bent and fingers pressing gently into your head.
  2. Inhale as you lift the head and shoulders off the mat, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  3. Extend your arms straight out to the sides, palms facing down.
  4. Then, rotate your palms to face the ceiling as you bend your elbows, bringing your hands to rest on your lower back.
  5. Reverse the movement, straightening your elbows to bring your palms back to form a “T” shape, flipping the palms (palms facing down), and bringing your fingers back to your head.
  6. With control, lower your chest to the ground, returning to starting position.

Modification: If lying on your belly isn’t comfortable, perform this exercise from a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart.

Dumbbell External Rotations

Targets: Shoulders (deltoids) and rotator cuff muscles.

Shoulder stabilization exercises like this one are great for improving shoulder health and strengthening the muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint, specifically the rotator cuff muscles.

Two women performing external shoulder rotations as part of shoulder mobility workout

How To Do Dumbbell External Rotations

  1. Start standing, feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, core engaged.
  2. Hold a light dumbbell in your right hand. Hold the dumbbell near your left hip, right elbow bent at a 90-degree angle and upper arm close to your body. Palm is facing towards your body. Shoulder blades are pulled back and down.
  3. Keeping your elbow bent and your upper arm stable, slowly rotate your forearm and the dumbbell away from your body.
  4. Rotate until the dumbbell is in front of your shoulder, or you feel a stretch in your shoulder. Range of motion will be different for everyone.
  5. Then slowly and with control, bring the dumbbell back to starting position, maintaining a 90-degree bend in your right elbow.

Pin This Workout: Exercises for Shoulder Mobility

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2 comments
  1. Thank you so much for this helpful video! I really need a lot of work on opening up the front of my chest and shoulders so that my chest can stay open and shoulders can go around and drop into the correct place for good posture and to prevent back pain. I will definitely incorporate these exercises and know it will help lead to improvement. I’d love to see a similar video focused on opening up the chest muscles. Thanks for your great content and constantly innovating to keep us motivated!