The Perfect 15-Minute Shoulder Warm-Up for Better Mobility

Doing an upper-body workout without a shoulder warm-up could lead to injury.
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Heading into your workouts without a proper warm-up is a recipe for injury. That's especially true for your shoulders.

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Your shoulders are "the most mobile and flexible" joints in your body, according to Arthritis & Sports, a Virginia-based orthopaedics and sports medicine practice. As such, your shoulders are super susceptible to injury if you don't take good care of them.

That's where this 15-minute shoulder warm-up comes in. Getting your shoulders moving and grooving before an upper-body workout helps you get the most out of your lifts by waking your muscles up and increasing their ranges of motion. As a bonus, activating your shoulders prevents injury and boosts your overall shoulder mobility.

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Having better shoulder mobility helps optimize your shoulder function outside the gym, too, by making daily movements like reaching something from a high shelf easier.

You can do all of these warm-up exercises at home or in the gym, and best of all, you don't need any equipment.

How to do it:‌ Perform each of the eight exercises below for the amount of sets and reps listed. The whole warm-up should take about 15 minutes.

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1. Controlled Articular Rotation (CAR)

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Sets 2
Reps 3
  1. Start kneeling on the floor with your right arm straight out in front of you, palm up.
  2. Raise your arm (keeping it straight and your palm up) as high as you can go..
  3. Begin slowly rotating your arm backward, moving it behind you, while still keeping it straight. You should end with your arm by your side and your pinky facing forward.
  4. Reverse the movement by raising your arm behind you with your thumb up until you can no longer raise it anymore.
  5. Begin slowly rotating your arm, bringing your thumb to face away from your body.
  6. Continue to rotate until your arm is back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat on your left arm.

Tip

CARs are a great mobility movement to control your full range of movement (ROM). The key to this movement are to move slow, like you're moving through honey.

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2. Thread the Needle

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Sets 2
Reps 3
  1. Begin in child's pose position by coming down onto your hands and knees, spreading your knees wide while bringing your big toes to touch, sinking your sit bones down toward your heels and extending your arms in front of you while allowing your forehead to rest on your mat.
  2. Place or “thread” your right arm under your chest until your right shoulder rests on the ground with your palm facing up.
  3. Make sure your head is turned to the left so that the right side of your face is resting on the ground.
  4. Keep your hips up and centered over your knees throughout the stretch.
  5. Take a deep breath, feeling the tension escape your muscles.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
  7. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

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3. Shoulder Swimmer

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Sets 2
Reps 6
  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs and arms extended. Your feet should be about hip-width apart and your biceps should be alongside your ears.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and engage your back to raise your legs, arms and torso off the ground.
  3. Connect your pinkies together, then separate them, rotating your arms behind your back to touch your thumbs together.
  4. Reverse the movement to return back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.

4. Plank to Downward Dog

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Sets 2
Reps 12
  1. Start in a high plank position.Your body should make a straight line from your heels through your hips to the top of your head.
  2. Move into downward dog position by lifting your hips up and back, drawing your shoulders down your spine away from your ears, elongating your spine and extending the backs of your legs as far as your hamstrings allow.
  3. Depending on your flexibility, bring your heels down toward the mat or stay on the balls of your feet with your knees bent.
  4. Hold for a few seconds.
  5. Lower your hips to return to high plank position.
  6. Hold for a few seconds.
  7. Move back to downward dog and continue repeating.

5. IYTA Stretch

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Sets 2
Reps 5
  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs and arms extended. Your feet should be about hip-width apart and your biceps should be alongside your ears.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and engage your back to raise your legs, arms and torso off the ground.
  3. With your thumbs up, pulse your arms 5 times in this "I" position.
  4. Widen your arms to about a 45-degree angle or a "Y" position. With your thumbs up, pulse your arms 5 times.
  5. Widen your arms even more so they're perpendicular to your body at about a 90-degree angle or a "T" position. With your thumbs up, pulse your arms 5 times.
  6. Move your arms back behind you so they're about 45 degrees from the sides of your body or an "A" position. With your thumbs down, pulse your arms 5 times.
  7. Repeat this process going back the opposite way — "A," "T," "Y," "I" positions.

6. Lateral Plank Walk

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Sets 2
Reps 10
  1. Start in a high plank position.Your body should make a straight line from your heels through your hips to the top of your head.
  2. Lift your left hand and move it out to the left a half step. Lift your left foot and move it out to the left a half step.
  3. Lift your right hand and move it in toward your body. Lift your right foot and move it in toward your body At this point, your body should form a straight line again.
  4. Repeat this process of moving to the left for 10 reps, then move to the right for 10 reps.

7. Bear Crawl

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Sets 2
Reps 10
  1. Begin on all fours with your hands and knees on the floor.
  2. Curl your toes under and push through your hands and toes so your knees come off the floor an inch or two. Keep your core engaged and hips level so you don't stick your butt into the air.
  3. Crawl backward with your right hand and left knee.
  4. Repeat with the left hand and right knee.
  5. Continue to crawl backward in this manner for 10 steps.
  6. Reverse the movement to crawl forward for 10 steps.
  7. Repeat.

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8. Downward Dog Push-Up

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Sets 2
Reps 10
  1. Start on all fours, tuck your toes under and lift your hips up, straightening your legs.
  2. Draw your shoulders down your spine away from your ears.
  3. Depending on your flexibility, bring your heels down toward the ground or stay on the balls of your feet with your knees bent.
  4. Bend your elbows and lower your head toward the floor.
  5. Push back up through your hands to straighten your elbows.
  6. Repeat.

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