Shoulder flexibility can become a concern as a person gets older and he or she realizes they don’t have the same range of motion as before. It’s also important for athletes and people with physically demanding jobs to maintain flexibility in their shoulders because of the demands placed on the upper body. Several types of stretching can increase shoulder flexibility, including shoulder rotations, cat stretches, and triceps shoulder stretches.
A person can lose shoulder flexibility when a protein, called collagen, in connective tissue changes; the collagen fibers start to stick together, reducing flexibility and range of motion. Flexibility also can be lost when joints become stiff due to inactivity. Stretching on a regular basis provides a way to combat stiff joints and increase shoulder flexibility.
It’s important to warm up before stretching to reduce the chance of injury. Warming up can consist of extending your arms out to your sides and rotating them in circles, starting with small circles and slowly circling into bigger ones. Other warm-up moves may include shoulder shrugs and raising your arms up to chest level, crossing them in front, and then moving them back to your sides.
One easy stretch that can be done anywhere is called the simple shoulder stretch. To perform this stretch, raise one arm over your head and bend your elbow so your hand is behind your neck. Put your other hand on your elbow and apply slight pressure to slide your hand down from your neck to your shoulder blade area, or as far as is comfortable. Hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds, and repeat the steps with the other arm. Be sure to keep your head up and your neck straight while doing this exercise.
Another good stretching exercise to increase shoulder flexibility is the cat stretch. To perform this stretch, kneel on the floor and place your hands in front of you, in a table-top formation. First, arch your back toward the ceiling, tucking your head down. Hold for a few seconds, slowly return to the table-top position and continue to arch in the opposite direction, pressing your chest toward the floor and lifting your head to look toward the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds and repeat as many times as you like, using fluid movements to move between positions.
Another shoulder stretching exercise can be done while sitting on the floor. Place your arms behind you, with your hands resting palm down on the floor. Scoot forward as far as you comfortably can while leaving your hands planted on the floor until you feel the stretch in your shoulders and back. Hold for about 20 seconds, or as long as is comfortable.