Four Exercises to Improve Shoulder Mobility and Strength

The shoulder is arguably the most important joint of the upper body, considering most movements we do involve our shoulders in some capacity. 

Unlike the other joints in our body, the shoulder joint is one of only two multi axial ball-and-socket joints. This means that it has a larger range of movements and is able to rotate on several different planes of motion. The benefits of this are obvious in our ability to perform complex tasks. However, these joints also have a much higher possibility for injury if not taken care of properly.

Below are four exercises that work to strengthen each of the various different movements that the shoulder performs. 

1. Abduction and Adduction

Abduction and Adduction can be explained as the upward and downward lateral movements of the arms. From resting at the side of the body, raising the arms until they are parallel with the floor will constitute these two movements.

A good exercise to improve abduction and adduction capabilities is the Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise. This can be performed with a light weight ensuring that full range of motion is possible and that no pain is present. Try doing 2 Sets of 8-12.

2. Flexion and Extension

When we lift our arms out in front of us so that they are parallel to the floor, we are using the flexion movement. When we do the same—but backwards, so that our arms are stretched behind us—we are performing extension.

Dumbbell Front Raises with Rear Shoulder Extensions are great for improving this range of motion. This exercise involves a normal front raise but followed through with a rear shoulder extension. As above, keep the weight light and ensure adequate form and full range of movement. Try doing 2 sets of 8-12. 

3. External Rotation and Internal Rotation

External and Internal rotation of the shoulder the rotation of the humerus away from and towards the chest. This movement is probably one of the most important because it is present in so many of our daily movements. Exercises targeting these two movements will strengthen the rotator cuff and improve performance in many other exercises.

External and Internal Cable Shoulder Rotations are two exercises that are great for this. When performing these, be mindful of keeping your upper arm (humerus) tight against your side to isolate the rotator cuff. Try doing light weight with 2 sets of each of about 8-12.

4. Horizontal Abduction and Horizontal Adduction

These movements involve crossing your arms in front of your chest and, respectively, uncrossing them or pulling backwards. Another very functional movement, strengthening these muscles can improve strength in a lot of daily activities.

Reverse Cable Flys & Chest Flys are two exercises for this. Additionally, they will even strengthen other parts of the body like the chest. Because these movements are so complex, it is difficult to isolate them specifically for the shoulder. Try doing these slowly and shifting your arm position so that you feel the muscles in your shoulders being activated. Do 2 sets of 8-12 and never ignore any pain that may occur.

Understanding the different planes of motion and how the shoulder operates is just as important as doing the exercises themselves. These four exercises for improving shoulder mobility and strength will help you build a stronger and more functional body. If you understand which movements are more difficult for you or are causing you some pain, it will be easier to isolate that particular area and work slowly to strengthen and improve it.

Again, all of these exercises should be done with light weight, at least initially.

If interested in performing these workouts at home, check out some dumbbells and resistance bands from Rogue Fitness below.