Five Shoulder Stretches To Boost Your Mobility

Woman holding her shoulder as she moves her arm
(Image credit: Jajah Sireenut / Getty Images)

Slumped over a keyboard all day? It’s not just your back that can feel the strain—your shoulders can also be affected. Adding shoulder stretches to your day, though, can really help. 

Helen O’Leary, physiotherapist and clinical director at Complete Pilates, says that our musculoskeletal system starts to stiffen up a bit after the age of 30 and it “can be easy to lose a little bit of mobility in the shoulders, so gradually that you don’t notice it. Or, if you’ve ever had a shoulder injury you can often lose a bit of range and it can be quite subtle. 

“Good shoulder range helps you with overhead movements, like reaching tall cupboards, behind-the-back movements like putting sun cream on your back, or just reaching into awkward places like the back of the car.” Swimming, tennis and throwing a ball all require good shoulder mobility too.

O’Leary has put together this simple routine of five shoulder stretches. You’ll simply need some floor space and a towel.


“If you have any neck, shoulder or arm pain, consult a healthcare professional before doing these exercises to make sure they are suitable for you,” says O’Leary. “Go gently and if any of these cause significant pain then don’t continue without seeking professional advice.”

We have plenty of other sessions to complement this routine, including a resistance band shoulder workout to improve your posture, a bodyweight shoulder workout from an orthopedic surgeon to keep your shoulders strong and healthy, as well as shoulder warm-up exercises to use before a shoulder workout

1 Sleeper stretch

Sets 3 Time 10-20sec each side

Lie on your right side with your right elbow bent and in line with your shoulder, and your right forearm vertical. Keeping your right elbow fixed in place, place the palm of your left hand over your right wrist and press down. Imagine your right forearm as the minute hand pointing to 12 on a clock and move it to 11 or 10. Repeat on the other side.

2 Cross-body shoulder stretch

Sets 1 Time 10-20sec each side

Place your right hand on top of your left shoulder. Take your left hand and place it at the right elbow.  Push your elbow towards your chest so that your right hand slides over your shoulder and behind you. Repeat on the other side.

3 Towel stretch

Sets 1 Time 10-20sec each side

Hold the towel in your left hand and fling it over your left shoulder. Reach your right hand behind your back and take hold of the towel. Gradually walk your right hand up the towel until you feel resistance. Pull the towel up with your left hand to pull the right hand further up. Repeat on the other side.

4 Doorway stretch

Sets 3 Time 30sec each side

Stand next to a door frame. With your elbow at shoulder height, place your hand against the door frame. Keeping your hand and forearm fixed in place, turn your body away from your arm. You should feel a stretch across the front of your chest. Experiment with sliding the hand further up or down the door frame to find the place where you get the best stretch. Repeat on the other side.

5 Lat stretch

Sets 3 Time 30sec each side

Stand with your right leg crossed behind your left one. Reach your left arm up and bend your body to the right. Hold your left wrist with your right hand and pull gently to the right. Repeat on the other side.

Lucy Gornall

Lucy is an experienced health and fitness journalist, and was formerly health editor for TI Media’s portfolio of women’s titles. Lucy qualified as a level 3 personal trainer with Train Fitness in 2016, and also holds qualifications in pre- and post-natal fitness, as well as in nutrition for exercise.