5 Shoulder Stretches for Athletes to Improve Flexibility and Prevent Injury

5 Shoulder Stretches for Athletes to Improve Flexibility and Prevent Injury

The shoulder is a key component in successful athletic performance. Certain sports pose a particularly high risk of shoulder injury. If you enjoy volleyball, baseball, tennis, football or swimming, keeping your shoulders flexible and strong can help you prevent the injuries commonly associated with these sports.

The secret? Shoulder stretches. These exercises, when incorporated into your regular exercise routines, can help to elongate your muscles, improve flexibility, prevent pain and broaden your range of motion. All of these benefits can help you stay out of the rehab clinic and in the sport you love. Here is a look at 5 simple stretches you can add to your regimen to improve your shoulder health and prevent shoulder pain.

Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

woman stretching shoulders muscle before workout in gym.

Ideal for tennis and baseball players, as well as anyone who engages in a lot of heavy lifting, the cross-body shoulder stretch offers the following advantages:

  • Relieves tension in the shoulder muscles
  • Increases shoulder mobility
  • Improves posture
  • Reduces injury risk
  • Relieves shoulder pain

How can you complete this exercise?

  1. Stand up straight and stretch your right arm across your chest as far as it will go.
  2. Use your left arm to gently press the right outer forearm toward your chest.
  3. Once you feel a stretch in your shoulder, hold the position for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Want to get the best results from this shoulder stretch? Try these tips:

  • Keep your elbow at shoulder height.
  • Keep your right arm as straight as possible.
  • Use both before and after the activity or sport of your choice.

External Rotation Shoulder Stretch

Middle age man doing shoulder surgery physical therapy with resistance rubber band exercises at home to strengthen the deltoid muscles to fully recover normal strength and flexibility.

The external rotator muscles of the shoulder play a critical role in maintaining your shoulder’s range of motion and stability. Keeping these muscles strong can prevent injury, stiffness and mobility issues.

The external rotation shoulder stretch flexes these muscles in ways that keep them elongated, flexible and strong enough to maintain your shoulder’s health. Here is a look at how to complete this exercise, and tips to get the most benefit from it.

How to complete the external rotation shoulder stretch:

  1. Stand in a doorway.
  2. Grab the doorjamb with one hand. If you suffer from shoulder pain or stiffness, grasp the doorjamb with the affected arm. Keep your arm bent at the elbow.
  3. With the other hand, hold your elbow firmly against your body.
  4. Rotate your body gently away from the door jamb.
  5. Stop when you feel a stretch in your shoulder.
  6. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds.

Want to get the most stretch, and the most results from this exercise? Try these tips:

  • Make sure you stand in the same spot while rotating your body.
  • Gradually work up your stamina until you can do 3 sets, 3 times a day, for 30-60 seconds each set.
  • Keep your arm as still as possible.
  • Pay attention to your body and do not overstretch your back or shoulder.

Wall Chest Stretch

young asian woman wearing sportswear stretching her arm on black wall in fitness gym, exercise for healthy lifestyle concept

As its name implies, the wall chest stretch uses only a wall and your body to stretch the muscles of your chest, arms and shoulders. By opening up these muscles, this exercise delivers improved flexibility that can prevent sports injuries and reduce pain. This is a form of sports medicine you can do at home.

Here is a look at how to complete this exercise, and how to maximize the benefits you receive from it:

  1. Stand facing a wall.
  2. Extend one arm to touch the wall.
  3. Keep your arm straight or slightly bent at the elbow.
  4. Slowly turn away from the wall while keeping your arm in place.
  5. Stop when you feel the stretch.
  6. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

You can also complete a similar exercise in this way:

  1. Stand facing a wall.
  2. Stretch both your arms out at shoulder height.
  3. Place your hands on the wall and slowly lean forward.
  4. Stop when you feel the stretch.
  5. Hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds.
  6. Slowly return to a standing position facing the wall.

Want to make the most of this exercise? Here are some simple tips that should help:

  • Keep your palm pressed firmly against the wall.
  • Keep your hand and shoulder aligned.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Use your stomach muscles to maintain your posture.

Seated Shoulder Stretch

Beautiful exercise trainer enjoy helping Asian woman for yoga training by balancing body pose and shoulder position for arms stretching while sitting on fitness ball beside workout mat at sport gym.

The seated shoulder stretch is an easy exercise to accomplish at work, at home, or before or after a workout. All you need is a comfortable place to sit. Perfect for relieving muscle tension and improving flexibility in your shoulders, it can help you prevent injury and reduce pain.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Sit straight in a comfortable seated position on the floor or in a chair.
  2. Clasp your hands behind your back, with your arms extended down.
  3. Relax your shoulders so that they slump inward slightly.
  4. Bend your elbows until your hands rest by your right hip.
  5. Bring your right elbow forward.
  6. Tilt your head to the left.
  7. Breathe 5 times.
  8. Repeat on the other side.

While this exercise may appear complex, it is actually easy to accomplish in just a few minutes a day. You can also engage in several other variations, all achievable from a seated position and all ideal for flexing your shoulder muscles and alleviating built-up tension. Here are some tips to try with your exercises:

  • Make sure you are seated comfortably.
  • Consider sitting on the floor for maximum range of motion.
  • Repeat 2-4 sets of this exercise at a time.

Shoulder Circles

young woman doing stretching warm-up exercises for muscle at home. Concept of sports training red-haired lady during quarantine.

Shoulder circles make a smart warmup exercise before any intense activity or sport. They exercise both the shoulder muscles and muscles of the upper arm, such as the biceps and the trapezium. Use this exercise to gain flexibility and range of motion that will protect you from injury during your chosen activity.

Here is how to complete this injury prevention shoulder stretch:

  • Stand up straight and place your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Allow your arms to hang down by your sides.
  • Roll both shoulders at once in circles in this order: Backward, up toward your ears, forward, then down.
  • Reverse direction after each set of 10-15 rolls.

Here are some tips for getting this exercise right:

  • Keep your arms loose throughout the exercise.
  • Make sure you do shoulder circles in both directions.

If shoulder stretches do not achieve the pain relief and flexibility you need, or if you want to learn more about injury prevention and treatment, reach out to Dr. Roy Nissim. We are on a mission to eliminate pain, and repetitive clinic visits, by finding and treating the source of your dysfunction. Schedule an appointment today to receive chronic pain treatment in Santa Monica, as well as injury prevention support.

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