5 Exercises To Improve Your Shoulder Extension

ring muscle up
Shoulder pain with push ups, dips, and muscle ups?

Shoulder extension or lack of ROM (range of motion) with shoulder extension causes your shoulder blade to “dump” forward.

When ever you run out of range of motion your body looks for ways to compensate and that’s what your shoulder does…

…shoulders round forward and causing potential pain.

Today we will be discussing:

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shoulder extension
A great stretch for shoulder extension is on the rings like I’m showing here

What Is Shoulder Extension

Shoulder extension is a movement of the shoulder joint (which is a ball in socket) where the arm moves behind the body (extension).

It’s important to have adequate shoulder extension for a number of reasons:

  • shoulders won’t round forward (push ups, dips, muscle ups, bench press, etc)
  • If your sport demands you to throw
  • strengthening the muscles involved in shoulder extension can improve your overall shoulder stability

Let me show you an example:

shoulder extension
Notice my rounded shoulders

Looks like my push up position and my neck is really just about up to my ears doesn’t it?


…no bueno.

You want to depress your shoulder blades “back and down” like the image below.

shoulder extension
See the difference?

Only thing I changed was being extremely intentional about keeping my shoulders back and externally rotating my hands into the ground.

Now what happens if you do that and your shoulders still round forward?


…you have run out of range of motion and that’s probably why your shoulders hurt after doing:

  • dips
  • push ups
  • bench press
  • muscle ups

Awareness is step one, step two is a little bit of education, step three I’ll gives you the tools.

shoulder extension
This is an example of shoulder extension (the higher up the elbow the better) without the shoulder rounding forward

Shoulder Extension Versus Shoulder Flexion

Asking yourself what is the reason my shoulder extension is limited?

Check out the full write up I did on the best shoulder mobility exercises where I break everything down in great detail.

But to answer your questions it’s:

  • restricted muscles (pecs and bicep tendon mainly)
  • poor movement patterns

Let’s help you fix that!

This shoulder mobility drill helps to improve both extension and flexion

Your shoulders take on a lot.

You want them to be stable, strong and mobile.

I would encourage you to do that little series often to improve your shoulder health.

Consider something like:

  • 1-3 sets
  • 5-10 second holds in each position
  • as often as you can

Shoulder flexion is when you are lifting your arm UP above your head. In the example in the video above…

…it’s where I was laying prone (face down) and holding the I position.

extension shoulder
Improve your extension and decrease your shoulder pain.

How To Improve Shoulder Extension

If you are a reader of ours you know the first thing we want you to do is…


We love the test and re test model because it lets you know what is working.

Which then allows you to find out which mobility drills are giving you the best return for the time you are spending on them.

When you want to improve your mobility we have a process that we have found to be extremely successful.

FRC, Kinstretch, PAILS & RAILS is what we have come to love for our process

Step 1 To Improving Shoudler Extension | SMR

“Smash” your tissues also known as foam rolling.

Now for most the lack of shoulder extension is going to be because of tight and restricted:

  • pecs
  • bicep tendon

Here are some video resources on how to “smash” those:

Yeah this can feel pretty nasty

Spending about 1-2 minutes on this area and just exploring any lines of tension.

If you find an area that’s really tender…

…yeah, that’s where you probably need to spend some time.

Stop there, quit moving around, and just work on breathing through your belly and sink into the ball.

If you haven’t done this before..your welcome

Step one we are working on doing some self myofascial release.

Now let me be clear…

…you aren’t actually breaking up any muscle tissue.

However, you are reducing some muscle tone and communicating to your nervous system to get these muscles to relax.

And that’s important because what’s easier to stretch?

  • a muscle that’s locked up and restricted?
  • or a muscle that has a little blood flow to it now?

Spend a minute or two per side and then let’s get on to step #2.

Step 2 To Improving Shoudler Extension | Passive Stretch

Now that the tissue has relaxed a little bit you we want to focus on diaphragmatic breathing and get as deep into the stretch as possible.

We encourage our clients to take an inhale for 4 seconds and an exhale for 8 seconds.

That can be challenging in the beginning so do what’s best for you and you lung capacity.

Maybe 2 seconds in 4 seconds out and gradually build up.

For instance like this stretch series I like to do before ring work

The objective is during your two minutes is to get deeper into your stretch before you apply PAILS and RAILS.

Here is a write up I did on ring muscle up progressions if you are trying to master that.

Step 3 To Improve Shoulder Extension | PAILS & RAILS

First step we did some tissue work to relax the muscle.

Second step we got into a passive stretch for two minutes and now we want to begin to work ON our mobility.

You see, passive stretching feels great and yes it lengthens your muscles…

…but you aren’t creating strength at that end range of motion.

That’s what PAILS and RAILS does.

shoulder extension
Here is an example of PAILS and RAILS

I’m going to provide video examples down below but in case you are reader and that’s how you process things let’s talk.

  • we did the ring dip stretch passively for two minutes
  • then here I am holding this stretch (in the photo above) and ready to begin pails and rails

How to do PAILS AND RAILS for shoulder extension

  1. Walk out to your end range of motion without your shoulder rounded forward.
  2. PUSH down on the rings and CONTRACT all the muscles on the anterior side of your body aka the front side. Do this for 10 seconds, this is the PAIL.
  3. Take a breathe or two and do the complete opposite and contract all of the posterior muscles aka the back side (your delts and triceps) for 10 seconds.

That is one rep.

After 1 rep of pails and rails you should be a little deeper into your stretch. Take a few breathes to get even deeper before ramping up for rep #2.

Just a little plug here…

…you could just join our mobility program and each day I’ll guide you through a daily 20 minute mobility program to improve both your mobility and joint function.

Click on the photo below to learn more about that, save yourself the headache and just show up to class ๐Ÿ˜›

shoulder mobility exercises
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Within our mobility program we help athletes optimize positioning, improve function and get strong.

Shoulder Extension Mobility Drills | Reverse Table | #1

Keep it simple at first

The reverse table pose is a great shoulder extension opener and is extremely demanding on your biceps and shoulder complex.

In the video I show and example how to make it easier if you are having a hard time getting into the position.

Shoulder Extension Mobility Drills | Crab Shift On Box | #2

After getting comfortable with the reverse table stretch try this

We have talked about the “test and re-test method” a lot.

What that means is finding which stretch or mobility drills helps to improve your range of motion the fastest.

That’s why we give you several different drills and stretches to try.

So you can find what that works best for you.

The crab shift is now beginning to challenge your shoulder extension even more.

Get those shoulders back, drive your hips up, hold for about 10 seconds and repeat.

shoulder extension

Shoulder Extension Mobility Drills | Crab Shift On Rower | #3

One of my favorite drills to open up here

A step up from the crab shift on the box we are not on the rower.

And the rower is going to allow your body to glide and really work your end range.

It’s a great stretch however you may feel some discomfort on your elbow. If that’s the case check out some of there other mobility drills we have listed below.

Side note – since you are someone who is wanting to improve your overhead mobility…

…you may be aware of how important it is to have adequate t spine mobility.

Check out my top 5 thoracic spine mobility exercises.

Shoulder Extension Mobility Drills | PAILS & RAILS | #4

This exercise is solid for when you are going to be doing things like bench press, push ups, and dips.

Create strength and get strong at end range.

This an exercise that is pulled form our K2 Mobility program and we like to program like this:

  • spend 2 minutes in a passive stretch first
  • the perform 5 reps of pails and rails

As discussed in the video 10 seconds pushing into the block and 10 seconds lifting away from the block as hard as possible = 1 rep.

Shoulder Extension Mobility Drills | Bear Roll | #5

One of my favorite shoulder stretches when warming up

This is a nice combination of the reverse table video above.

We like it because it creates a little bit of movement and when you are cold it’s a great way to get some blood flow to your shoulders as you start to open up.

Focus on quality of movement and get about 10 reps.

Shoulder Extension Mobility Drills | #6

This is often done wrong, check out the video to make sure you do it properly

This shoulder extension drill is great because the position isn’t very demanding and you can easily throw it into your warm up.

We created a small list of other things you can do to warm up your shoulders here.

It feels good and can meet you where you are at.

Don’t make the mistake of…

…rounding your shoulder forward.

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If you have pain when you do push ups, dips, bench press, and even muscle ups shoulder extension is often over looked.

In today's blog we covered:

  • what shoulder extension is
  • shoulder extension versus flexion
  • how to improve your range of motion and strength
  • and give you a list of our top drills and stretches pulled from our mobility program

Start adding some of the stretches and mobility drills we showed you in today's drills.

To fast track your mobility and get your strength back check out our mobility program.

shoulder extension
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