The Ultimate Shoulder Mobility Guide [Program Included]

by Ben Thompson

The shoulder joint is one of the most complex in the body and often causes people many issues.

There can be a number of different reasons for this including a sedentary lifestyle, overuse, or sometimes a reason we cannot even control. 

If you are reading this, you have most likely heard from your physio, massage therapist or coach that you ‘need to improve your mobility’ but maybe don’t even know where to start?   

Due to the complexity of the shoulder joint, people get confused, and to be honest, rightly so…it’s complex.  

It’s confusing and there are many moving parts required to function correctly.

Regardless of whether your goal is to get out of pain or to improve your overhead range in the gym, we have created a simple guide for you to follow and get started. 

What is the goal? 

So you are probably thinking — what's the best stretch I need to do to fix my shoulder mobility?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. 

Creating postural change takes time and is going to require more than some occasional stretching. 

For the shoulder joint, we must aim for three primary goals: 

1. Achieve balance between agonist and antagonist muscle groups.

2. Achieve sufficient strength rations between our smaller stabilizing muscles and larger prime movers.

3. Achieve balance between the left and right side of the body. 

What are the common problems? 

Over the years we have coached hundreds of clients and have been lucky enough to see many common patterns present. 

While we are all unique in our own way, there are a number of trends / commonalities that occur in the upper body. 

For the most part, people spend too long sitting at a desk or may train in a way that doesn't promote structural balance. 

In this case, they are left with poor shoulder mobility which restricts them from performing movements they love and often leaves them with neck or lower back pain. 

The pattern we are referring to is called upper body cross syndrome.

It’s the movement dysfunction that commonly presents but we are not here to bore with fancy words and terms. 

What we most commonly see is people's inability to extend and rotate the thoracic spine and are chronically short in muscles like the pecs, delts, biceps and lats.

Mobility Standards 

Below we will introduce you to a number of different exercises and you'll find out very quickly what you need to work on. 

The first two exercises are mobility drills we commonly use. They will give you a great indication of where you are at with your thoracic extension and rotation. 

These are movement standards that you need to be able to achieve any day of the week. 

They are the non-negotiables that you must do daily until you can achieve the movement standard and then revisit overtime as required. 

While we acknowledge there are hundreds of different mobility drills out there, we wanted to keep it simple. 

Over the years we have simplified things down to two movements as we have found they are the best ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of improvements in range of motion. 

Perform these two exercises daily until you can achieve both of the mobility standards.

Exercise 1: Side Lying Windmill

Goals: Improve thoracic rotation, create length through the front of the shoulder (pecs, delts, biceps) 

Explanation: To get in position lay on your side, lift your top leg up so you have 90 degrees at the hip and knee. 

Anchor the knee and hip down on the floor using a large weight plate. 

Stack your hands on top of each other and ensure your spine is straight. 

To begin the movement, lift your top hand off, rotating your spine until your hand, elbow and shoulder meet the floor on the other side. 

Hold this position for 5-10 seconds before returning to the start position.  

Movement Standard: To pass this test, you must stick to the following points:

- Knee maintains contact on the floor 

- Hand, elbow and shoulder touch the floor on the other side. 

Exercise 2: Thoracic Extension on Deadball

Goals: Improve thoracic extension, create length through lats and teres minor. 

Explanation: Start seated on the floor, place your upper back on a deadball. 

Lifting your hips off the floor, reach your arms overhead to grab the barbell. 

Focus on keeping the wrists and elbows straight before lowering your hips towards the floor. 

Hold this position for 5-10 seconds before taking a breath, lifting the hips up to ease off the tension. 

Repeat this process  with the goal of getting the hips to the floor. 

Movement Standard: To pass this test, you must be able to maintain the following standards: 

- Use a 35-55kg Deadball 

- Straight wrists, locked out elbows and hips touching the floor.

Now we have covered our range of motion tests, we will move onto a number of different exercises 

The exercises covered below will be broken up into two categories.

The first group will focus on creating length through the anterior shoulder. 

These movements are designed to create length through areas like the pecs, delts, biceps and lats. 

When performing these exercises, think of them as a loaded stretch. 

They will be performed with long holds in the stretched position to help create length and build strength at end range. 

The second group of exercises will focus on building strength through the posterior shoulder.

The movements are designed to create strength through areas like the posterior delts, rhomboids, lower & middle traps. 

When performing these exercises, the aim is to achieve specific movement standards to display the adequate strength in the antagonist and stabilizing muscles.  

Category One: Anterior Length

Benefits: Improve shoulder mobility by creating length through the front of the shoulder. 

Exercise: Below is a list of some of the exercises that will be included in the program. 

1. Shoulder Dislocates [Watch Video]
1. Deficit Push Up [Watch Video]
2.Dips [Watch Video]
3. DB Bench Press - Neutral Grip [Watch Video]
4. DB Fly - Unrolling [Watch Video]
5. DB Pullover [Watch Video]

Category Two: Posterior Strength 

Benefits: Improve strength through the posterior shoulder and middle back. 

Exercise: Below is a list of some of the exercises that will be included in the program. 

1. Scap Pull Up [Watch Video]
2. DB Prone Row [Watch Video]
3. Behind The Neck Press [Watch Video]
4. Chin Up - Neutral Grip [Watch Video]
5. DB Prone T Fly [Watch Video]
6. DB External Rotation from Knee [Watch Video]

4 Week Shoulder Mobility Program

Here’s A Sneak Peek Of Your Training Program👇

Leave a Comment

First and Last Names
E-mail Address

Interested in our training methodology?

Download 14 days of our Strength and Conditioning programming completely FREE.  

Download Now