How to Fix Tight Shoulders: 7 Best Mobility Exercises & Stretches

If your work behind a desk, odds are you experience upper back or neck soreness and fatigue from time to time.

While the symptoms may seem like they’re coming from your neck or upper back, your shoulders may be involved as well.

Tight shoulders occur when you slouch over your desk for long periods of time. This is the same posture we make when using our computers.

The problem is, tight shoulders increase the stress in your neck and upper back. This causes tension to build up in these areas.

So, in time, you’ll experience neck pain or muscle tightness.

To make matters worse, we all experience stress. And, it just so happens that when we’re stressed our ribs drop slightly down. This makes the rounding of your upper back and shoulders worse.

To help you counter these effects, here are the best shoulder mobility exercises. They’ll put your joints through the full range of motion making sure that they don’t get stiff.

In doing so, you’ll prevent tightness, injury while improving posture.

Best Shoulder Mobility Exercises

1. Scapular Wall Slides

Scapular wall slides are a simple exercise that helps improve overall shoulder health. They improve flexibility allowing you to enjoy better movement.

How to Do Scapular Wall Slides

  • Stand with your back against a wall.
  • Raise both arms up to your sides to chest level. Bend your elbows so your forearms are vertical and your palms face forward.
  • Slowly slide your arms up over your head. Make sure to keep them flat against the wall while doing the movement.
  • From the top bring them back down to the starting point.
  • Repeat this movement 10 times.

2. Around The World

For shoulder stability and strength this exercise uses some weight. It is an excellent way to keep your rotator cuffs healthy. We go into more detail about rotator cuff exercises below.

You can do this drill with or without weights.

  • Without weights: Clasp your hands together over your head.
  • With weights: You can use a plate or a dumbbell. At home, you can use a milk jug or any solid object.

How to Perform the Around the World Shoulder Mobility Drill

  • Grab a barbell plate with both hands and position it over your head.
  • Circle the weight around your head by rotating it clockwise.
  • Do 10 circles then repeat the exercise going counter-clockwise.

3. Doorway Stretch

Unlike the two exercises above, this is a static stretch. That means there’s no movement involved. Instead, it stretches your shoulders by opening your chest. You’ll also feel a slight stretch in your biceps.

How to Do the Doorway Stretch

  • Stand in your doorway.
  • Lift your right arm up, so your elbow is level with your chest.
  • Position your forearm and palm on the door frame.
  • Lean forward while pressing your hand and forearm against the door frame. You’ll feel a good stretch in your chest, shoulder, and biceps.

You can do this exercise using one arm at a time or both arms at the same time.

4. Healthy Shoulder Joint Exercise

This all-around movement is something you can do daily for good shoulder health. It allows your shoulders to move in all directions. This keeps the joint healthy by enabling synovial fluid to nourish your shoulders.

How to Do This Exercise

  • Stand with your hands near your hips.
  • Raise your arms to the sides, so they’re level with your chest.
  • Bring them forward. Then, cross them so your left arm is extended to the right and your right arm is extended to the left.
  • Pull them back to your sides then back down to your hips.
  • Lift them up over your head.
  • Bend your elbows when you get to the top.
  • Bring your arms back down to your hips.
  • Do this movement for 5 times.

5. YTWL Series

This is a popular prehab and rehab exercise for shoulders. They help stabilize and strengthen the upper back and shoulder muscles. This not only protects it from injury but also prepares it to be able to gain from strength training.

We love the YTWL series because it helps improve your posture. Stronger upper back muscles mean less slouching and no more rounded shoulders.

Unlike the others YTWL is a combination of 4 exercises, the Y, T, W and L. Its name corresponds to the formation your arms make during each exercise.

How to Do the YTWL Series

Lean on a stability ball, so your stomach is resting on the ball. Keep your knees bent and let your arms hang down your shoulders.

  • The Y: Raise your arms at a 45-degree angle from your body. From the top, you’ll be forming a letter “Y” with your arms and body. This movement engages the front deltoids.
  • The T: Raise your arms up to your sides. This forms the letter “T.” It activates the side and rear deltoids as well as your trapezius.
  • The W: Bend your elbows and raise your arms up to your sides. This creates the “W” formation at the top of the movement. It works similar to the T motion but with more emphasis on your rear deltoids.
  • The L: With your elbows bent bring your arms up to shoulder height. Then, let your forearms hand down, so they point straight to the floor. From here, externally rotate your shoulders by lifting your forearms until they are parallel with your body. This movement improves external rotation. Plus is activates all heads of your deltoids through the full range of motion.

Rotator Cuff Mobility Exercises

Above we’ve covered some of the general shoulder mobilization drills that will help you keep your shoulders healthy. They’re also great for pain relief and prevention.

This section is specifically for rotator cuff mobility. The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that hold your shoulder in its socket. It is also what keeps it stable. Among its many functions include your ability to rotate your shoulder inward and outward.

Below we cover the different mobility exercises you can do for internal and external shoulder rotation.

1. Internal Shoulder Rotation Exercises

Internal Rotation is turning your shoulder inward. This motion involves turning your entire arm at the shoulder towards your body or placing it behind your back.

If you have any problems doing this or have a limited range of motion in this regard, here are a few exercises that will help your flexibility.

The video below demonstrates three exercises.

2. External Shoulder Rotation Exercises

External rotation meanwhile is the opposite of internal rotation. Again, it is the rotator cuff responsible for this movement.

It involves turning your arm at the shoulder outwards. Thus, externally rotating your shoulder results in your palm facing forward.

Here’s a video that includes four exercises that will help improve your external rotation range of motion.