Shoulder Stretches

| August 2, 2013 | Reply

Tight shoulders are a common problem for many people today, posing serious hindrances to the accomplishment of ordinary movements of the upper part of the body and sometimes resulting in distressing situations, which further tighten the shoulders muscles. Luckily, all this unpleasant scenario can be resolved to a very satisfactory extend with some basic stretching exercises.

shoulder muscles

Shoulder muscles

The Area

The shoulder area occupies a fairly sizeable part of the body, consisting of several muscles (like deltoid, levator scapulae),  bones (the clavicle or collarbone, the scapula or the shoulder blade and the humerus or the upper arm bone) and ligaments; all these work jointly to provide a wide range of movements for the upper part and arms, also providing proper posture and enabling other muscle groups to perform movements like pushing, pulling etc. For more information on the shoulder muscles click the photo.

Shoulder Stretching Exercises

The good thing about shoulder stretching is that practically all of those exercises can be executed almost anywhere without special machinery. Below are some basic examples of shoulder stretches. Don’t Forget to read our detailed guide on stretching before trying any of these:

  • Standing shoulder stretch is a classic passive/static stretch (photo 1). It is the most basic exercise you can execute for that body area; so, stand upright and bring your left arm across your chest while grabbing it from its the elbow with the inside of the elbow of your right arm; keep both your shoulders as loose as you can and do not bend your left elbow; when you sense the stretch in the back of your left shoulder, hold it; switch sides and repeat. (A variation of that stretch can be performed by pressing your elbow with the other arm’s palm.)
  • An active/static one: Stand upright or sit with your back always straightened; loosen up your chest and extend your arms over your head while locking the fingers of your hands with the palms facing the sky; pushing up – without unlocking your fingers – would make you feel a nice stretch in your shoulders, which you hold (photo 2).
  • A trickier one: Stand or sit, lift up your chest and intertwine your fingers behind your back with the palms facing down and with your elbows slightly bent; now, begin straightening your arms behind your back slowly moving your arms upwards without curbing your back until you feel the stretch (photo 3). A passive version of this active/static stretch (by means of a partner) is also popular!
  • An even more challenging stretch (photo 4), which you should be able to perform as your flexibility increases; stand upright, loosen your chest and bend your left arm over your head and down to your back; now, bend your right arm, spanning it behind your back and up, so as its fingers meet the fingers of the left hand – without hunching forward; knit your fingers and hold it there; repeat with the other side.

All the previous exercises are static, but you can also apply dynamic/isometric/AIS/PNF variations of the same stretches in order to grab even more benefits! There are also various other good shoulder stretches, some of them requiring pretty basic equipment (a belt, for instance) and others being more dynamic (i.e. arm circles), which you can integrate in your routine depending on your needs and progress (and after consulting with your doctor). For the static/active stretches, hold them for 20-30 seconds, carry out 4-6 sets for each area and make sure you practice them at least 3 times a week.


Apart from the general benefits of stretching, what can frequent stretching deliver for your shoulder muscles and tendons? Let’s have a look:

  • It increasee the flexibility of your shoulder muscle tissue and augment your range of motion
  • It significantly improves your posture
  • It enhances the blood flow in the area
  • Dynamic stretching of your shoulders is also an excellent way of warming up before your work out while static stretching during your cool-down can aid in fixing small muscle tears and prevent from stiffness
  • It delivers neck and shoulder pain relief thanks to the loosening of the connective tissue and muscles (for stretches focusing mostly on neck click this)

What To Consider

  • Warm up by swinging your arms, performing arm circles or, more preferably, by using a rope so as to limber up your muscles and lubricate your joints
  • Stretch your muscles attentively, going for the point of mild inconvenience and not that of pain
  • Breathe normally to increase oxygenation
  • Stretching your shoulders is not as tricky as it is with other limbs and parts of your body – but this does not mean that you can perform the stretching routine without the needed attention and commitment
  • Do consult with a doctor before starting a stretching routine if you have previously suffered from an injury on that area or you are already encountering shoulder pain so as to avoid causing extra harm instead of benefiting yourself

Once again we will remind you this: Before trying any of the above stretches you should take into consideration our general do’s and dont’s for stretching!

Photos & Videos

Watch the photos & vid below for better understanding of the aforementioned

shoulder stretch

Photo 1 – Standing Shoulder Stretch

shoulder stretch

Photo 2 – Active/Static Shoulder Stretch

active shoulder stretch

Photo 3 – Active/Static Shoulder Stretch

shoulder stretch

Photo 4 – Another Shoulder Stretch

Our Opinion

Modern, sedentary way of living or, on the other hand, overuse of the shoulder muscles due to sports activities make stiffening of the shoulders a very common and unpleasant situation, therefore some simple shoulder stretches can truly make the difference, relieving from the tension and alleviating from shoulder pain. Taking also into account the fact that performing these stretches is relatively easy and requires no special equipment, there is really no reason for avoiding a stretching routine that can loosen up your shoulder area and reinstate the effortless movement to the upper part of your body.



Category: Stretching specific Body Areas

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