Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Training Tips for Women

4 Exercises to Improve Shoulder Mobility

Unchain your ball-and-socket joints with this mobilizing shoulder protocol.

Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness and nutrition courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.

Is a lack of shoulder mobility holding you back? Then you’re among millions. While it is arguably the most mobile joint in the human body, the shoulder is also the most problematic, which is no wonder considering all its moving parts. If anything is off with a bone, ligament, tendon or muscle, it could lead to instability, misalignment, impingement or even a tear.

An effective shoulder protocol is crucial for athletes wanting to level up their game and boost that competitive edge. This program maximizes your shoulder stability while improving your end range of motion for 360-degree mobilization.

Side-Lying Shoulder Rotation

Woman demonstrating side-lying shoulder rotation
Photo: Sean Michel

Targets: shoulder girdle, pecs, thoracic spine

Lie on your side with your knees stacked and bent 90 degrees. Extend your arms straight out from your shoulders along the floor in front of you. Inhale and reach your left arm forward, then exhale and lift it up and over in a smooth arc to the left, opening your body as you reach your arm as far as you can toward the floor. Pause briefly, then circle your arm around over your head and back to the start. Complete five reps, then switch sides.

Tip: Keep your legs and hips stacked and your right arm pressed into the floor throughout. Rotate only through your thoracic spine and shoulders.

Prone Thread-the-Needle

Woman demonstrating prone thread-the-needle
Photo: Sean Michel

Targets: posterior shoulder

Lie on your left side with your legs straight and your arms extended in front of you in line with your shoulders. Roll to the right onto your stomach, keeping your left arm on the floor and reaching your right arm over your head. Hold for one minute. Then, keeping your body exactly where it is, press as hard as you can into the floor with your left arm for 15 seconds. Then try to lift it up off the floor for 15 seconds. Then relax and breathe for 30 seconds and switch sides.

Tip: If you feel a pinch in your left shoulder, draw your scapulae down and back, tuck your toes under and drive them into the ground to shift your body upward and forward.

To make this move more challenging, bend your left knee and slide it up to hip level.

Happy Puppy

Woman demonstrating happy puppy
Photo: Sean Michel

Targets: lats, shoulders

Get onto your hands and knees, walk your arms straight out in front of you and rest your forehead or chin on the ground while keeping your hips stacked over your knees. Hold one minute, then press your arms as hard as you can down into the floor for 15 seconds. Then lift your arms up toward the ceiling for 15 seconds. Then relax and hold 30 seconds more.

Tip: If your mobility is limited, do this move on a chair: Get into tabletop and place your elbows, bent 90 degrees, on the edge of the chair. Press your palms together, rest your forehead on the edge of the chair and let your belly drop toward the floor.

For a deeper stretch, lift your arms and press your fingertips into the floor.

Scapular Floss

Woman demonstrating scapular floss
Photo: Sean Michel

Targets: scapulae, shoulder girdle

Get into plank with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Drop your hips and point your toes while keeping your arms straight. Now, draw a clockwise circle with your shoulders from front to back: First sink into your shoulders so they shrug up toward your ears, then push down into your hands and rotate your shoulders upward and forward. To circle down, depress your shoulders down as if spreading your “wings” wide on your back. Then drive your chest forward and draw your scapulae inward to circle up and back to the start. Repeat five times forward and five times backward.

Tip: If you feel a strain in your wrists, perform the move on all fours in a tabletop position.

Perform these moves as part of your warm-up on upper-body workout days or any time you feel like your shoulders need some love.