Shoulder stretches can really help if you’re experiencing tight shoulders. But these simple stretches can also go a long way toward helping to prevent you from developing shoulder problems in the first place. Taking just a little bit of time each day to do some various stretches may help support healthy muscles, whether you follow a strength training routine or any other type of exercise program.
Tony Horton wants you to be at your best at all times. To do that, you have to be careful when starting any sort of workout. Stretching is a great way to help protect not only your shoulder muscles but all your other muscles as well.
Here’s a look at why stretching is so important, why people might develop tight shoulders, and some easy stretching exercises that can help make sure your shoulders feel great.
Why Should You Stretch Your Shoulders Anyway?
What’s commonly referred to as the shoulder is actually called the shoulder girdle. This is an intricate cluster of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. The main purpose of the shoulder girdle is to provide a range of motion to the arm and support arm strength.1
Shoulder issues can make it hard for you to move your arms. Doing something as simple as reaching up to a high shelf to pull down a book might seem impossible. In order to help this complex portion of the body work correctly, you should stretch it on a regular basis.2
Stretching your muscles helps to keep them at their proper length. The more you stretch, the more flexible you’ll be. You’ll also increase your range of motion, help reduce your injury risk, and help minimize the effects of poor posture.3
Gentle Exercises To Help Loosen Up Your Shoulders
You don’t have to exhaust yourself in order to get your shoulders nice and limber. Try a few of these stretches and see if they help improve your shoulder mobility.
Crossover Shoulder Stretch
This exercise can help stretch your shoulders and loosen up your upper arms and upper back.
- Stand up while keeping your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your knees bent slightly, and keep your pelvis tucked. Interlock your fingers and stretch your palms out.
- Assume the same starting position. Raise your left hand into the air and bend from the waist sideways while keeping your right hand on your hip. Then raise the other arm, put the other hand on your hip, and repeat.4
Overhead Shoulder Stretch
- First, stand up straight. Keep your feet the same width as your shoulders, stick out your chest, and keep your shoulders back.
- Raise your left arm, keeping your left elbow bent. Place it behind your neck.
- Take your right hand and grab your left elbow. Gently pull your arm behind your head.
- Hold this position for a few seconds, relax and then repeat, switching your hand position in order to stretch the opposite shoulder.5
Reverse Shoulder Stretch
- Stand up straight. Interlock your fingers behind your rear end.
- While standing straight with your shoulder blades together, slowly move your arms upward. You should feel stretching in your chest muscles.
- Stay in this position for 30 seconds.6
Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch
- Relax your shoulders and pull your right arm across your chest. Go as far as you can and hold your upper right arm with your left hand.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds and then relax.
- Repeat the stretch, this time stretching your left arm across your chest and holding it with your right hand.7
What About Strengthening?
Flexibility is obviously important, but so is strengthening. Making your shoulder muscles stronger makes the joint more stable, helping to ease discomfort and lower your risk of injury. Stretching and strengthening actually go hand in hand. When you stretch after a strengthening workout, that can help you maintain your flexibility.8
Here’s a closer look at some of the benefits of keeping your shoulders strong.
- Maintaining range of motion – When you have strong shoulders, life is simply easier. You can pass food to a family member without thinking about it, and you can lift a heavy suitcase during a vacation. If you work out regularly, strong shoulders make it possible for you to perform upper body exercises with no discomfort.
- Injury protection – When people have weak shoulders, they often find themselves in a great deal of discomfort after chest or upper back exercises. Weak shoulders may also increase the chances of hurting yourself while playing a sport or even doing something as simple as opening a door.
- Increased self-confidence – Many people think of strong upper bodies as an attractive trait. Having strong shoulders may also go a long way toward boosting your self-confidence.9
What Might Cause Tight Shoulders?
Tightness is a common shoulder complaint. Shoulder tension can contribute to this problem due to stress. You might have to reach up a lot to grab things above your shoulder height as part of your job. Or, you might sit in front of a computer all day and have to continually reach for your mouse or keyboard.
When you sit for a long period of time, you tend to move your shoulders a bit inward and slightly forward. This can shorten the muscles in the front portion of your neck and your chest muscles.10
Now, your body has to find a way to balance out this tension. Otherwise, you’d tip over. Your nervous system activates the muscles in your neck, upper shoulders, and upper back. But these muscles aren’t designed to be activated for hours at a time. This can gradually lead to shoulder tightness, as well as tightness in the surrounding areas.11
How To Prevent Shoulder Ache
You don’t have to resign yourself to having aching, stiff shoulder blades. Here are some things you can do that may help keep shoulder discomfort at bay.
- Get plenty of rest – Stop what you’re doing if you start noticing shoulder discomfort. This will give your shoulders some time to recover. If you’re using your arms to exercise, switch to a different type of exercise that uses your legs while you give your shoulders a break.
- Think about how you sleep – Do you seem to always experience left shoulder discomfort? Do you typically sleep on your left side? Try changing to the right side and see if that makes a difference.
- Build up your shoulder strength – You already learned earlier how important it is to keep your shoulders strong. Talk to your doctor to find out what types of exercises are best. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy if your shoulders are extremely weak.12
Talk To Your Doctor First
These shoulder stretching exercises just scratch the surface of what’s out there. Look online, and you’ll likely find other exercises that involve the use of aids, such as an exercise band.
You’ll also see exercises that stretch not only your shoulders, but other muscles that may help support them, like the upper traps, or trapezius muscles. These are the muscles you use when you shrug your shoulders or tilt your neck.13 Some neck stretches may focus only on specific areas, like the rotator cuff.
Whatever type of exercise you choose, pay attention to your form. Make sure you’re starting from the correct seated position, (or standing). A physical therapist might be able to help. Also, talk to your doctor before beginning any sort of rigorous new stretching or exercise routine. These exercises are gentle, but you don’t want to risk injury.