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1 exercise for healthier shoulders

The shoulder is a complex area; there’s just so much going on, so much potential movement and so much potential dysfunction.

I have a personal favourite movement/exercise/tool to assess, on a very basic level, where someone’s shoulder mobility is. I’ve used this movement daily whilst working towards a better overhead press. Because to put it bluntly, try overhead pressing big weights (relative) with impingements, tightness and imbalances through the shoulders; it’s like a recovering sex addict having to spend 24 hours in a brothel.

Daily dislocations

( – shoulder dislocations from start to finish demonstrated with a band

The classic ‘shoulder dislocation’ exercise. I’ve mentioned these before on multiple occasions. They can be executed in many ways and modified to differing mobility levels. Using an exercise band would be the most ‘newbie friendly’ and a broomstick or even a barbell would be far more advanced and challenging.

Start with a ‘snatch grip’ in terms of width, which is wider than shoulder width – the wider you choose to place your hands, the less flexibility required. Keep the arms as straight as possible and flex the shoulders as you bring your arms up and over your head and down until the bar/band is at your sacrum. You’ll notice the end position puts many of the anterior muscles on stretch and in turn, contracts plenty of posterior muscles.

You put the shoulders into external rotation, the biceps on stretch and you open the pecs. When do we find ourselves with these muscles in such a position in daily life? Never.

Humble pie

Prepare to be humbled if you’ve never tried these before. If you can make a full repetition or revolution having never done them before, you’re doing mighty fine. If you can’t, that’s fine too. Just go as far as where you feel a stretch, maybe pause for a moment or two then come back down to the starting position, rinse and repeat!

I’ve been doing 15 reps twice a day for a good few weeks now and they’ve definitely offered me more shoulder mobility. As I become accustomed to a particular grip width, I narrow it by an inch or so and challenge my mobility once again. Furthermore, practising shoulder dislocates just make my shoulders feel better.

Tight pecs are the biggest obstacle with these. Try them after a day of high volume incline pressing………..dare you! And try doing these if you’ve got a kyphotic posture (rounded upper back and shoulders far in front of the ears)………curse me later.

( – one of the best ways to look old before your time

As always, be patient and consistent. These, along with an intelligent program, were pivotal in me setting that new overhead press PR I was aiming for prior to Christmas.

Another great variation is to lay in a prone position and squeeze your glutes and quads whilst simultaneously pulling the bar overhead and down to the sacrum – think of it as a ‘prone cobra’ with a dislocate added in.


( – you can add a broomstick or band to the traditional prone cobra and get 2 for the price of 1

These should be a staple of any good warm up routine. 

Have you ever tried these? And if so, what do you use to do them? 



JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

7 thoughts on “1 exercise for healthier shoulders Leave a comment

  1. Great stretches. Question: I am a personal trainer and think my client may have Kyphosis but I’m no doctor so I dont plan on diagnosing him. When doing the military press. His arms cant align with his head, they can only be about 5 inches in front. He also has pain when trying to place a barbell behind his neck and hold it there. Any ideas on what this could be and how I might be able to help him?

    • Thanks Monica.

      Even though you’re not a doctor, I think your ‘diagnosis’ is probably right. I’m not a doctor either so I also cannot say for definite.

      From what you’ve told me it sounds like he’s got a lack of thoracic extension and/or tight lats. Improving his thoracic extension and loosening his lats should help; I’m also willing to bet his external rotation is awful too.

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