3 Easy Exercises To Improve Shoulder Flexion

skull crushers

Have you ever found yourself struggling to reach the top shelf to get your favorite treat or lift your arms up victoriously and found your shoulder feeling tight?  Well you can toss those worries away because our new mobility challenge is all about the shoulder and being able to lift your arms overhead.  Commonly thought of as elevation, the technical term is shoulder flexion.  This range of motion is important for everyone and causes many of the shoulder injuries we treat on a daily basis.  Let’s talk about how this range of motion works, common injuries and issues associated with limited shoulder flexion, and introduce our new 10 Minute Mobility Challenge!

How Shoulder Flexion Works

Simon says put your hands in the air!  When lifting our arms overhead most of us don’t consider what it takes to get there.  We just know that within a split second our arms can and should go over our head.  Generally thought of as 1 action, it’s actually 4 things moving at 1 time!  Your collarbone, scapula, thoracic spine, and humerus all need to move seamlessly together.

Here’s how:

  • Your clavicle, or collarbone, move backwards 
  • the scapula, or shoulder blade, slides over your ribs
  • the thoracic spine, or middle back, extends forward toward your sternum
  • your humorous, or your upper arm bone, elevates upward

It’s a pretty complicated movement that many of us take for granted.  We don’t typically realize it’s not there until we need it.  By the time we are to that point, unfortunately most of us end up with discomfort or worse, injuries.  So what are the most common injuries?  Let’s go over some of them now.

Chloe is a physical therapist providing 1:1 manual therapy where the patient is showing shoulder flexion

Common Injuries and Issues

Any type of limitation in the ability to elevate your arm leads to many of the common shoulder issues we treat.  Some of those include rotator cuff tendonitis, rotator cuff tears, bicep tendonitis, and shoulder impingement.  Other signs you have limited shoulder flexion is feeling discomfort and tightness in the shoulders.  This is especially apparent when trying to lift your arms overhead.  You will also feel limited mobility in your middle back or thoracic spine.

So how and why does this really happen?  It can be a number of things.  You may have an acute trauma or injury that happen to you.  This could be a fall or an accident where there was some kind of impact to the joint.  More commonly the issue stems from our daily activities and the form in which we do them.  That’s right!  Your posture and how you carry yourself when you sit, stand, cook, work, and play all impact your shoulder flexion. 

With our lives being in front of us all the time our shoulder head, or the top of the humerus bone slides forward.  This sliding forward causes stress on the tendons, ligaments, and muscles all around the area.  This added friction and the bone sitting in the wrong place stops our shoulder from being able to move properly and limits the range of motion when lifting our arm overhead. 

Chloe talking to a patient while performing prehab exercises

Benefits Of Improving Shoulder Flexion

Injury prevention isn’t the only thing that improving your shoulder flexion helps.  Here are some other incentives why you should participate in our challenge!

  1. Functional movements – shoulder flexion is essential for performing various daily activities including reaching and placing objects on high shelves, putting on clothing, and washing your hair.  
  2. Sports – many sports and physical activities require good shoulder flexibility and mobility.  Activities like swimming, volleyball, weightlifting, gymnastics, yoga, and baseball often involve overhead movements and throwing. Improving your shoulder flexion can help elevate your performance and reduce risk of injury while playing. 
  3. Posture and spinal alignment – limited shoulder flexion can lead to poor posture and alignment issues.  When this mobility is restricted you begin to compensate with other parts of your body including the lower back and neck which can lead to discomfort and a gamut of other issues.  
  4. Quality of Life – Shoulder flexion is a fundamental aspect of upper body mobility.  By having adequate range of motion you will enhance your quality of life by making every day movements and tasks easier and pain free.  This will promote your health and well being as well as independence as you age.
patient doing strengthening exercises

10 Minute Mobility Challenge!

The time has come!  Let’s start by introducing a great pre and post test to track your progress followed by the 3 exercises we will be doing for the 10 Minute Mobility Challenge – Shoulder Flexion Edition!  You’re going to need a chair/bench that has an elevated surface that you can lie on.  You also need 1 weight or weighted object.  It can be anything from a dumbbell to a water bottle as long as it’s an appropriate size and weight for you!

The Exercises

pre and post test for shoulder flexion

As simple as it is to lift your arms in the air is how simple our test is.  All you need to do is lift both arms up in the air (leading with your thumbs towards the sky) and see how far you can comfortably go.  Make sure you don’t flare your ribs and get mobility from your lower back!  Keep those tight and let your shoulders do the work.  Do this before and after the 3 rounds of mobility exercises.

Single Arm Chair Stretch for shoulder flexion

Single Arm Chair Stretch – Put the tip of your elbow onto a chair or bench.  Allow your hips to sit backwards as you let your upper body lower down to open up the space between your tricep and your under arm/rib cage.  Hold for 30 sec/side.

Elevated Prone Superman's for shoulder flexion

 Elevated Prone Superman’s – Start by laying on your stomach on a bench.  Let your arms in front of you in a Y position, palms facing in towards each other.  Initiate the movement from your middle back and then lift your arms and legs.  Repeat for 10-15 reps.

skull crushers

Skull Crushers – Grab your weight!  On a bench, lay on your back.  Hold your dumbbell with both hands.  Let it drop behind and over your head towards the floor.  Keeping your elbows in, lead from them to raise the weight up and straighten your arms out completely in front of you.  Then slowly lower the weight back down.  Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Watch the Full Shoulder Mobility Challenge Video!

This mobility challenge is a little different in that we are challenging you to participate for 14 days!  That’s right, a full 2 weeks to see how much you can improve your shoulder flexion.  Whether you’re a sports enthusiast or looking for your favorite box of cookies everyone can benefit from this challenge.  Say goodbye to those awkward twinges and hello to pain free movement by taking this 10 minute mobility challenge!  We can’t wait to see your progress!  Make sure you tag us on your favorite social media platform @mobility_doc.  We will be posting our progress too.  We can’t wait to go on this mobility journey together with you!

Looking For More?

If you missed our last challenge, it’s not too late to start!  This shoulder flexion mobility challenge compliments our spine mobility challenge.  For even better results try them both!

Athlete Highlights

Natalie Mosier
Dr. Chloe and Natalie

We want to congratulate Natalie Mosier!  A senior at Palmerton High School, she is a dedicated track and field athlete.  This year she was on the varsity Cross Country and Track and Field teams.  She competed at Districts in the 4X800 relay event, and the individual 800.  Her team performed well and placed 4th in the relay.  Excited for what the future is to bring she is enrolled in Penn State’s Animal Science’s program beginning fall of 2023!  

Try our physical therapy based program to even out your imbalances and keep you doing what you love longer!  We created this for every day movers and shakers like you to supplement your fitness not replace it.  That means you’ll get rid of all those aches and pains so you can just feel strong while you’re biking, running, golfing, you name it!  Check out MDFit today!  

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