Cranky shoulders aren’t a normal part of aging, even though many of us believe it is. Truth is, a lot can go wrong with the shoulders. Whether it’s shoulder dislocation, rotator cuff tears, shoulder bursitis, shoulder impingement, frozen shoulder, tendinitis, or something else, we wanted to give you some simple steps to work towards fixing the root problem-things aren’t moving or moving at the right time. 

So here are the top 5 exercises you can do to start taking care of your stiff, cranky shoulders so they can take care of you. 


#1: Quadruped Serratus Press

Start on all fours (hands and knees). Push your chest away from the ground rounding out the upper back. While keeping weight on your hands use your hands to push your hips backwards towards the hips. You MUST keep weight/load on your hands. 

If done right, you should feel a stretch right under your armpit. 

This exercise is crucial for helping your shoulder blade upwardly rotate to help you get into that overhead position (link to blog).


#2: Scapular CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations)

These may seem simple, but to get your scapulas (shoulder blades) to move WITHOUT the elbow bending is harder than it might look. The goal is to challenge the range of motion in each of the four points, and eventually start to smooth out the diamond/box into a circular motion. 

The four points are:

  1. Up (into the ear)
  2. Back (into the spine)
  3. Down (into the back pocket)
  4. Forward (reaching forwards)

Start by taking 10 secs each rotation and do 3-5 each direction each arm at a time. You can progress by going faster, or changing the arm position, doing both arms together. 

You can do with them with or without a band as well. 


#3: Anti-Shrugs

It seems like our default position is to be hunched over with our shoulders in our ears as if they were a new fashionable earring. This exercise helps ‘fix’ that by strengthening the position of shoulders out of your ears. 

Keep your elbows locked out. It’s best to do this between 2 chairs of the same height. Using just 1 chair or bench will put the arms behind your body and put a lot of strain on your biceps tendon which can create some problems. 

Shoot for 2-3 sets of  15-20 reps.

#4 & 5: Bent-Over T’s and Y’s

These are excellent at getting the scapulas to move, but also strengthening the upper back to hold the shoulders in a better position than the typical slouched, desk-jockey position. 

Start with 2-3 sets of 15-20 together. As you get stronger, add in another set of single arm, and finally adding a set of alternating arms. 



#6: Bent-over Scarecrows

This will really target the rotator cuff as well as just the shoulder stability. Unlike the other exercises where we are actively trying to get the scapulas to move as much as possible, on this drill we don’t want the shoulder blade to move at all while the arm is in motion.