Swim a lap, play a few rounds on the tennis court or go out for 18 holes on the golf course -- you'll experience the importance of healthy shoulder extension. Reaching your arm behind you in your freestyle stroke or your tennis or golf swing requires it. Poor shoulder mobility can limit your performance and lead to injury. Taking some time out to strengthen and lengthen the muscles that aid shoulder flexion can keep you on the court or green or in the pool so you don't miss any of the action.
Bilateral Shoulder Extension
This exercise, which requires only a resistance band, increases shoulder mobility and strengthens the upper back. It also strengthens the triceps and lengthens the biceps muscles.
How to do it:
- Loop a resistance band around a pole or other sturdy object at hip height.
- Stand facing the pole with one end of the resistance band in each hand and your hands at your sides. Position yourself far enough away from the anchor point that there is tension in the band.
- Keeping your arms straight, extend your arms straight back as far as you are comfortably able to go. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Pause for a second, then return to the starting position with control.
- Do one to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions.
This modification of a yoga pose builds strength and mobility in the shoulders with a focus on lengthening the anterior deltoid muscles on the fronts of the shoulders to improve extension. Work into it slowly and never stretch to the point of pain.
How to do it:
- Sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your palms about 12 inches behind you and slightly wider than your hips. Keep your fingers pointed out away from your body to start. As your shoulders become more open, you can point your fingers behind you or even toward you to enhance the stretch.
- Lift your hips up so they come in line with your knees. Make sure your shoulders are aligned over your wrists. Keep your chest open and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Stay here for a few seconds.
- Start to gently rock forward and then return to neutral. Repeat several times, then lower your hips to the floor.
- Repeat the exercise one or two more times.
Cow's Face Stretch
Perform this exercise to lengthen the anterior deltoid and chest muscles and strengthen the upper back and triceps.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Reach your hands behind your hips and interlace your fingers. If you aren't able to comfortably grasp your hands, hold onto a towel, yoga strap or resistance band.
- Extend your arms so your hands lift away from your butt, as far as you can. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for one minute and release.
- Repeat, switching your grip so your fingers interlock the opposite way. If using a towel or strap, simply repeat.