From the moment when we step out of bed, we heavily rely on the flexibility of the shoulders to get through the activities of the day. Activities such as bathing, dressing, picking up an object and preparing a meal may not be possible without the sufficient range of motion in the arm. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint that allows for an incredible amount of motion. It can even be said the shoulder has the greatest range of motion of all the joints in the body.
Despite its importance, the shoulder may be the most susceptible upper body joint to get injured. This is because the joint is strongly influenced by the surrounding muscles that place it at greater risk from a muscular imbalance. And due to this muscular imbalance, the shoulder loses its flexibility, leading to chronic shoulder problems. Luckily there are various exercises and methods to reverse these problems or simply prevent them altogether. The most effective 3 exercises are mentioned below;
- Wall Extensions
This is a relatively simple movement that can be quite effective in improving shoulder flexibility.
Begin with, standing with your back and heels flat against a wall. Keeping the back straight and pressed up against the wall is very important. Next, extend the arms to the sides while pressing the upper arms into the wall followed by bending the arms such that the forearms are vertical and the upper arm and forearm form a 90-degree angle. Once the arms are in the correct position, slide the arms up the wall toward a complete overhead position. It is important to keep the forearms vertical at all times as any other position can reduce the effectiveness of this movement. Once the arms are extended upward as far as possible, reverse the motion and return to the starting position.
8-10 repetitions, two to three times per week.
- Pec Stretch
When the pec muscles are tight, they pull the scapula forward. This is a very helpful exercise to increase shoulder flexibility.
Start by laying down on a foam roll or rolled towel from head to tailbone, ensuring it is perfectly aligned with the spine. Move the arms to form a 90-degree angle and lower them down onto the ground. Gradually, reach overhead until a gentle stretch is felt in the front of the arm or in the chest. One should not feel this in the front of the shoulder joint, but instead along the chest muscles. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds before pulling the elbows back towards the sides of the body
Stretch two to four times, three to four times a week.
- Sleeper Stretch
This exercise loosens the rotator muscles in the shoulder making it easier to reach behind the back.
Lie on either the right or left side and extend that arm out in front of the body. Bend the elbow to form a right angle with the upper arm flat on the floor and the forearm upright. Using the other free hand, gently push the forearm down and towards the ground. This causes a gentle stretch in the back of the shoulder. Hold around 10 to 30 seconds before allowing the forearm to return to the initial position. Repeat the same on the other arm.
Two to four repetitions on each arm.
Each exercise should cause a gentle stretching sensation and not increased pain. The shoulders are one of the most important upper body joints hence, keeping them strong and flexible is vital for fitness. Therefore, a well-designed, proper exercise needs to be incorporated into daily workouts for achieving optimal shoulder flexibility.