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3 Shoulder Exercises to Improve Your Mobility

Jul 16, 2019

Author: Peter Yu

Our shoulders are one of the most versatile and incredible joints in the human body. The shoulder is a “ball and socket joint” and allows for the most range of motion and mobility of any joint in the body. The shoulder requires that at least 12 muscles work together at any given time along with the scapula and humerus of the arm in order to allow for optimal shoulder motion and function. Because of the large range of motion our shoulders allow, it is often times not as stable as our other joints and can frequently become injured. Right now we are specifically looking at how we can improve our shoulder mobility and stability, in order to ensure optimal shoulder performance.

The Apley’s Scratch Test and the Seated Shoulder Flexion Test are two self examination screens you can perform on yourself to determine if you have adequate mobility at the shoulder.


TEST: Apley’s Scratch Test 
(Shoulder Internal External Rotation)

To perform this test, take your hand and reach behind your back, reaching up and attempting to reach the border of the opposite shoulder blade. Next reach over the top of your back and attempt to reach the top border of that shoulder blade.



  • Able to touch the bottom and top of the scapula
  • No excessive arching or rotation of the back


  • Unable to to touch the designated spots on the opposite scapula
  • Excessive arching or rotation of the back.

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TEST: Seated Shoulder Flexion Test

Sit down against a wall, lock your elbow and point your thumb towards the ceiling. Reach your arm up and back towards the wall, grazing your ear, touch the wall and come back down.



  • Able to touch the wall with your thumb and arm grazing ear
  • Arms are straight and are not bent at the elbows
  • No excessive shrugging or side bending of the neck
  • Back is completely flat against the wall


  • Unable to touch the wall with your thumb
  • Arms are bent at the elbow
  • Excessive shrugging or movement of the neck
  • Arching of the back against the wall

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Exercises for Shoulder Mobility

While a lot of us may not find the need to military press 185lbs, we should all have the ability to lift up a 50lb suitcase and put it in the trunk of a car or in an overhead bin on an airplane without injuring ourselves. While you may think that our “delt” muscles are the main stabilizers and movers of our shoulders, there are “a ton” of other smaller muscles (okay, maybe not a ton but at least 12) positioned around our shoulders. Each one plays huge role in the stabilization of our precious shoulder joint.

Even if you are not injured right now, strengthening and improving your shoulder stability can really go a long way in terms of preserving and maintaining your shoulder health!

Increasing Shoulder Flexion

  • Lie on your back on a bench or a foam roller
  • Holding the weight in each hand, let your arms drop backwards and over your head into shoulder flexion, using the loaded weight to pull you into more ROM
  • 2-3 sets of no more than 5 reps here is enough in order to maintain form and focus.

Click here to watch exercise

Increasing Shoulder Internal Rotation/Shoulder Extension

  • Hang and tie a theraband over an overhead bar or any steady surface over your head
  • Reach behind your back up towards your opposite scapula (just like Pt 2. Of Apley’s Scratch Test and wrap the theraband around your hand
  • Slowly sink down and allow the band to pull your hand upwards into more shoulder extension/IR
  • Hold for 30 seconds in that position

Click here to watch exercise

Exercises for Shoulder Stability

Here are some bonus exercises that you can use to work on increasing the stability of your shoulder. Remember, increased stability leads to increased performance and reduced injury risk. Perform the following movements as a circuit and complete 2 rounds of 10 reps for each exercise routinely in order to improve your shoulder health.


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