Shoulder Mobility Exercises To Improve Your Overhead Position

Improve your shoulder mobility = improve your performance

Looking for the best shoulder mobility exercises?

Want to get into a better “stacked’ position or be able to get into a solid overhead squat?

We have been there.

Improving and re training your overhead mobility is CHALLENGING.

However with tons of test and re-test we have seen which shoulder mobility exercises work best and we will be providing those for you.

In today’s blog post we will discuss:

Answer some frequently asked questions and provide you with a ton of knowledge so you can get your shoulder mobility back on track.

Want to fast track your shoulder mobility? Check out our daily mobility classes that helps athletes improve mobility, restore function and get back to training!

shoulder mobility exercises
Find what your limitation is first. Then address the problem

Shoulder Mobility Test

If you don’t know where the problem is coming from you won’t know what to address and where to get to work on corrective exercises.

We talk about this extensively on how to improve mobility here.

Cliff notes are to:

  • test the movement pattern you are trying to improve
  • work on mobility exercises (we will show you a ton in the blog)
  • re-test the movement pattern to see if you saw improvement on the shoulder mobility exercises you performed

So what test should you do?

We want your arms to be flush against the wall

Are you shoulders being restricted due to:

  1. External rotation (like the photo above)?
  2. T spine extension (like the photo below)?
  3. Shoulder extension?
  4. Maybe a combination of all?

You aren’t the only one.

Incorporating corrective exercises, stability training and FRC/Kinstretch (pails and rails) is what we have found to be the most successful.

shoulder mobility test
We want you to be able to have your hands flush to the floor.

I’m exaggerating in both of the photos but did you notice how my left shoulder couldn’t touch the wall or the ground?

That’s a sign of some shoulder mobility restrictions.

Lack of shoulder mobility often comes from a few things:

  • tight pecs (that want to pull your shoulder forward)
  • tight lats (that restrict your arm from going overhead)
  • poor movement patterns

You may look something like this when you press overhead:

T Spine Mobility

And that’s just doing an overhead press.

When we screen an athletes mobility using the FMS system we test with an overhead squat.

An overhead squat will expose any mobility limitations that you have ๐Ÿ˜› so encouraging right?

Well…it lets you know what you need to work on.

thoracic spine mobility exercises
Let’s give you some tools that you can walk away with to improve shoulder mobility

Shoulder Mobility Exercises

See how in the photo above from the side you can see my ear?

That’s an expression of full range of motion and where we want you to be.

Before you get into any mobility work remember to:

  • test the movement pattern you are trying to work on FIRST
  • then perform a series of mobility exercises and then re-test to see if there was improvement

Just a side note…what are you trying to improve?

Drop in the comments below.

The reason I ask is I get a lot of messages about people trying to improve their overhead squat mobility and although yes, shoulder mobility is important to achieve the overhead squat.

A lot of times you would be surprised that if you clean up your ankle mobility you can sit MORE upright and that takes off some of the demand of shoulder mobility.


improve your ankle mobility and it makes everything a bit easier for you.

Spend a minute or two working on extension first

Shoulder Mobility Routine To Improve Overhead Mobility

Ready to get to work on your shoulder mobility?

Remember this routine when wanting to create REAL change.

What I mean by that is sure we can show you some stretches that you probably already know but if you want to create change and see your mobility improve overtime you want to do this:

shoulder mobility

Foam Roll To Reduce Muscle Tone

First we want to communicate to our central nervous system to relax and reduce some muscle tone.

That’s essentially what we are doing when we are foam rolling.

We aren’t actually breaking up any muscle tissue. We are simply communicating to our body to reduce some stiffness so that when we get into our active stretching our body is a little more receptive.

To improve your shoulder mobility in most cases you want to spend some time loosening up these areas:

  1. Lat Smash
  2. Med Trap Smash
  3. Lastly loosen up your pecs (video shown below)
For the tissue work, spend 1-2 minutes in the most tender area.

Stretch In The Position Of Restriction To Improve Shoulder Mobility

After we reduced some muscle tone our body is going to allow us to get into the stretch a little easier.

So find the position of restriction and spend 1-2 minutes just holding a passive stretch and…

…focus on JUST breathing.

  • Can you breathe in for four seconds and then out for four seconds?
  • Each exhale can you get just a little deeper into your stretch?

Here are a few shoulder mobility stretches that will really open you up.

Shoulder Mobility Exercises | PVC Lat Stretch | #1

If there was only one stretch to do, it would probably be this one

Grab a band, get your arms as wide as possible (external rotation), tuck your rib cage and get into a deep lat stretch that is just money on your shoulders.

  • hold this stretch x 1-2 minutes

Shoulder Mobility Exercises | Serratus Wall Slide | #2

Serratus wall slides are $ for improving function

After loosing up your lats (lengthening them) we want to begin working on function. The serratus wall slide is such a power house of a shoulder mobility exercise it has it’s own full write up. Check that out here.

  • perform this mobility exercise 8-12 reps

Shoulder Mobility Exercises | Prone Reach Backs | #3

To improve shoulder mobility we also have to address rotation & extension

The two exercises above addressed vertical pressing by loosening up your lats and then restoring function with the wall slide.

When we look at improving shoulder mobility we also have to look at t spine rotation. The prone reach back is a great exercise to improve both rotation and extension (not mention strengthening your lower back as well).

  • perform this t spine mobility drill x 10 per side

Shoulder Mobility Exercises | Kettlebell Arm Bar | #4

Stability. Improve your stability and your strength will improve.

As you create some mobility (or for the few of you that have great mobility) stability is actually a huge factor in helping improving your strength.

But the drills prior are so important because if you can’t get into a good position you are just continuing to create poor movement patterns.

Exercises like the kettlebell arm bar, bamboo bar, banded serratus wall slides are all exercises that you would see if you were to visit a physical therapist as well.

Meaning they are integral movements to correcting/improving your shoulder mobility.

  • perform this shoulder stability drill x 30-60 seconds per side

Shoulder Mobility Exercises | Bamboo Bar Overhead Squats | #5

Challenge your stability in the position you are trying to improve

The bamboo bar overhead squat is a really great way to challenge both stability and mobility.

You can see in the video the kettlebell has my shoulders rocking all over the place and even causes me to lose balance.

The better stability you gain the more “locked” in to the movement pattern you will be and you can own that position.

Just image being able to do a clean overhead squat with the bamboo bar how much more stable you will feel when performing on a regular barbell.

  • perform tempo overhead squats 3 x 5 reps as often as you can

Want to improve your snatch? We created a 4 week snatch foundations course that is helping athletes who struggle with the technique feel confident pulling under the bar.


Shoulder Mobility Stretches | Pails & Rails

We’ve talked about how’s PAILS and RAILS from my experience is the most effective mobility protocol.

The IL stands for Isometric loading.

The P stands for progressing

The R standing for regressing.

What am I talking about? Well, I do a full write up here on Kinstretch, and what is PAILS/RAILS here.

Cliff notes are is a technique that’s extremely effective protocol for strengthening your end range of motion.

Let me show you an example:

Why show you a leg stretch to improve shoulder mobility?

I showed you an example of the couch stretch with pails/rails because believe it or not if you can free up a little bit of anterior tilt you can improve your overhead position.

This happens when you have tight hip flexors and your hips are pulled forward a lot of times you can actually improve your positioning.

That’s because you can get into a more neutral spine position. Neutral spine means less compression on your lower back and less compensating like the the photo at the top of the blog where I have the barbell over my head in the strict overhead press.

Check out my top hip flexor exercises here.

Shoulder Mobility Stretches | I, Y, T | # 1

Sometimes strengthening your shoulders just means holding the positions

I probably should have put this exercise in the section above but I couldn’t not put this one in here.

It’s a great exercise to help improve strength in different planes and a movement you see in our virtual mobility classes often.

  • perform this exercise x 10 reps as often as you can

Shoulder Mobility Stretches | Shoulder Extension | #2

We all need to do more of this shoulder stretch

Lack of shoulder extension and very common area that’s overlooked when trying to improve shoulder mobility.

Being restricted in extension can and will impact your ability to get into a strong position in your bench press, dips (whether bar or rings), push ups and muscle ups.

When you think of shoulders rounding forward excessively on push ups it’s because the scapula is anterior tilting which is another compensation.

So what am I saying?

Work on your shoulder extension.

  • spend 1-2 minutes holding this stretch

Shoulder Mobility Stretches | Crab Shift On Rower | #3

Massive way to improve your shoulder extension

After working on the previous exercise you can incorporate the rower or a box to level up the intensity of the stretch.

This shoulder extension exercise is a MASSIVE opener.

Retract your shoulders back to avoid rounding and drive your hips up and glide on the rower as far as you can then…

…hold that end range of motion (without your shoulders rounding) for 10 seconds or a few strong breathes then return and repeat

Shoulder Mobility Stretches | Reverse Snow Angels | #4

Not quite like playing in the snow but it will help your shoulders out ๐Ÿ™‚

Reverse snow angels are $ for improving your shoulder mobility and function.

But fair warning these are toughhhh.

Reverse snow angels demand a lot out of your shoulders.

  • internal and external rotation
  • flexion and extensino
  • and all being in the prone position (face down) works your erectors (your back) like crazy too

Add this shoulder mobility exercise to your routine for sets and reps you can manage.

May I add something here?

Drum roll a pitch to join our mobility classes coming now ๐Ÿ˜›

As you can see on this shoulder mobility blog thus far there is a TON of drills, stretches, corrective drills, techniques that can be applied and sometimes piecing things together and can be a bit overwhelming.

Because you know what’s going to improve your mobility the fastest?

It’s not reading.

It’s not watching the next video on how to improve shoulder mobility.

It’s not taking in more and more information.

Although information is great.

Applying what you have learned and doing it on a consistent basis is what will you get the results. And that’s why we are offer our daily mobility classes that guide you through 15-20 minutes of the most effective mobility techniques that we are discussing in today’s blog.

shoulder extension
It’s the fastest most effective way we can help ๐Ÿ™‚

Click on the photo above to get signed up for our mobility classes (first week is free) and we will guide you through what to do every single day.

Then you can just follow along ๐Ÿ™‚

Shoulder Mobility Routine | Warm Up

To create any type of change it’s all about finding what works for you and making it a part of your routine.

Here are some ways that I fit a solid shoulder warm up discussed in detail and a ton of exercises you can incorporate to your workouts before you lift.

Some ideas:

  • have 2-3 go to “pre-hab” exercises I like to call it. Which means exercises you are doing all the time to prevent an injury so that you don’t have to rehab your shoulder.
  • set a clock for 10 minutes and get to work on all the different shoulder mobility movements I showed you.

And make a habit of doing these shoulder cars daily (video below)

Get your shoulder to move through full range of motion…daily.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I improve shoulder mobility?

Find what your limitation is. What’s hindering you the most…shoulder flexion, rotation, extension? You can do that with our mobility screening above.

Once you determine which area you are lacking you can stop wasting time, energy in efforts working on the wrong things.

What causes poor shoulder mobility?

Poor movements patterns and tight muscles. For example if you have extremely tight lats and pecs those muscles are pulling your shoulders forward.

Secondly “movement pattern” for example if you grew up playing basketball where your arms are used to going forward when shooting a basket. It’s difficult to retrain your shoulders to get your arms in line with your ears. The most effective mobility technique I have seen to retrain this is PAILS/RAILS discussed earlier.

How long does it take to improve?

Let me help you reframe your mindset. Because the answer is being consistent and finding what works. If each day you are intentional, or each time you exercise you are intentional about doing your shoulder mobility exercises, drills, and corrective exercises you will see change.

We know how challenging it can be to avoid getting bored and also just making sure you are doing things right.

That’s why we created our virtual mobility classes to where you can just follow along and we guide you through each daily mobility protocol.

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What's the best shoulder mobility exercises?

Well, it's the ones that you will do consistently. But if you are someone who tries some stretches and you are dedicated for a little bit but then stop because you are seeing any progress...

...then you will want to do one of a few things:

  • follow the exact shoulder mobility protocol that I gave you above for free (comment below if you have any questions
  • join our virtual mobility classes where we guide you through a mobility routine every day that addresses every joint of the body

Ready to get rid of pain and or move better to optimize your range of motion and strength? Lean more about our mobility classes here and say goodbye to your pain.

shoulder mobility exercises
Let's get you moving better. Hope to see you in class!
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