Wellness5 Shoulder Mobility Exercises From a Physical Therapist

5 Shoulder Mobility Exercises From a Physical Therapist


Feeling a snap, crackle, pop in your shoulders? It’s called crepitus in the shoulder, and you aren’t alone. But good news, it’s fixable with some targeted, shoulder mobility exercises. In general, “hearing some noises as you move that shoulder around is not bad, especially if it isn’t associated with pain,” says Jen Fraboni, DPT, creator of The Mobility Method. “But you do want to get strong and mobilize.”

Check out these fantastic moves Dr. Fraboni shared on her Instagram feed, and dive deeper into the anatomy of your shoulder and why these cracking sounds happen in her podcast, The Optimal Body Podcast. Mobile, silent shoulders are on the way.

1. Child’s pose hovers

Start sitting on your shins with a pillow on your lap. Fold forward, extend arms to straight, and place palms on floor in front of you. Slowly lift right arm up to hover off the floor (thumb toward ceiling). Keep your arm straight and your shoulder away from your ear. Hold for five seconds, lower back down, and switch sides. Once you feel more confident, remove the pillow to increase your range of motion. Repeat, alternating sides, for 30 seconds.  “It is only a hover for five seconds, but trust me it gets tough—especially if you are thinking about pulling that shoulder down away from that ear, keeping that arm really straight, and hugging it into your head as much as possible,” Dr. Fraboni says.

2. Seated wall flexion

Start seated with your back against a wall, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms extended overhead in a narrow V position. With control, lower arms down to tap floor with fingers and return to start. Continue for 30 seconds. Keep your shoulders away from your ears. “I love doing this in a seated position because you have no room to extend and cheat with the back,” Dr. Fraboni says. “The shoulders and shoulder blades do all of the work.”

3. Seated wall angels

Start seated with your back against a wall, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms extended overhead elbows bent at 90 degrees, so backs of arms are pressed into wall. Without taking your arms off the wall, slowly lower elbows down and in toward waist. Return to start and repeat for 30 seconds. “These are one of the toughest shoulder stability exercises out there because you don’t have room to cheat in your back by opening and arching,” Dr. Fraboni explains. This one will really make you feel the burn and light up your shoulders, but it is totally normal she says.

4. Prone internal rotation/external rotation reaches

Start lying on your stomach with your arms extended straight in front of you on the floor. Lift your arms, head, and chest up to hover in the air a few inches—your lower body should stay on the ground throughout this movement. Bend your to tap the back of your shoulders with your fingers (elbows stay narrow). Re-extend arms and then sweep them wide out the sides and around before bending elbows to bring hands to rest on low back, palms facing up. “Prone reaches are one of the toughest exercises for the shoulders because we are reaching against gravity as we keep that chest just barely hovered and gaze looking straight down,” says. Dr. Fraboni, who also explains that it’s important to ensure your hands are not crawling back, but landing wherever they can within your range of motion.

To keep your shoulders healthy, it’s important to learn how to do upper-body moves the right way, starting with OG push-ups: 

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