How Flexible Are Your Shoulders?

Take These Tests To Find Out!


Do you know how flexible your shoulders are? Today we’re going to look at some ways for you to find out. 

Some of you may know I have some experience as both a Physical, and Sports Therapist Aide. These tests are taken from those arenas. And while we’re at it, we’ll stretch your shoulders at the end, too!

(Please note that this is for informational purposes only, and it is not medical advice. If you have any kind of pain, prior to your own evaluation of the shoulders, you must consult your Physician. And, if while doing the following tests, you experience restrictions in your range-of-motion, please consider consulting a Physician or Physical Therapist.)

First, we’ll use the Range-of-Motion (ROM) evaluation, and then do some stretches for your shoulders.


ROM Test for External Rotation of your shoulder: 

  • Place your hands behind your head interlacing your fingers 
  • Externally rotate your shoulders by opening your elbows out to the sides and releasing your shoulders down toward your shoulder blades
  • Observe and compare between your shoulders
  • Notice the difference if there is any

ROM Shoulders External Rotation JimenaTobonYoga

ROM Test for Internal Rotation of your shoulder:

  • Place your hands behind your mid-back with palms facing back
  • Internally rotate your shoulders by raising your hands towards your shoulders  as high as possible
  • Observe and compare between your shoulders
  • Notice the difference if there is any

ROM Shoulders Internal Rotation JimenaTobonYoga

More ROM Tests for your shoulders:

  • Adduction: movement towards the midline

ROM Shoulders Adduction JimenaTobonYogan

  • Abduction: movement away from the midline

ROM Shoulders Abduction JimenaTobonYoga

  • Flexion: movement that decreases the angle between two body parts, or a “bend”

ROM Shoulders Flexion JimenaTobonYoga


  • Extension: movement that increases the angle between two body parts, or a “stretch”

ROM Shoulders Extension JimenaTobonYoga

  • Horizontal Adduction: movement towards the midline while parallel to the ground

ROM Horizontal Adduction JimenaTobonYoga

  • Horizontal Abduction: movement away from the midline while parallel to the ground

ROM Stretch Shoulders 1 JimenaTobonYoga

  • Compare between sides. Ideally, these movements should be pain-free.


Simple exercises to stretch your shoulders

Again, ideally the following movements should be pain-free. Performed prior to strengthening, these stretching exercises allow your muscles to work with less risk of injury. When performed after a workout, these stretches reduce the risk of muscle cramps and tightening. Don’t bounce during the stretch, as this can cause small tears in the muscle. Instead, slowly stretch to the point when you feel tension, and then back off. If you begin to feel pain, you have stretched too far. 


Warm-up to Stretch: 

  • Stand up straight facing a wall
  • Extend your right arm with your elbow soft (not locked), and place your hand on the wall at shoulder height
  • Start to walk with your fingers upward very slowly
  • Stepping in toward the wall as your hand climbs higher
  • Stop if you feel any discomfort
  • Slowly walk your fingers back down
  • Switch arms and repeat

ROM Stretch Shoulders 1 JimenaTobonYoga


ROM Stretch Shoulders 2 JimenaTobonYoga

ROM Stretch Shoulder 3 JimenaTobonYoga


Anterior Deltoid* Stretch: 

  • Stand with one side of your body a little closer than arm’s reach to a wall
  • Place the inside of your hand flat against the wall and behind the wall as far as possible
  • Your arm should be at shoulder level with your hand flat against the wall
  • Your upper body is twisted away from the wall as far as possible without discomfort
  • Most of the twisting motion should come from your shoulder region
  • Switch arms and repeat


ROM Anterior Deltiods Stretch JimenaTobonYoga


Posterior Deltoid Stretch:

  • Extend your right arm at shoulder level to the left
  • Draw your arm towards your chest you with left hand or you can place your left hand on top of your right shoulder
  • Pull the out-stretch arm (right) closer to your body, stretching the posterior deltoid
  • Switch arms and repeat

ROM Posterior Deltoids 1 JimenaTobonYoga

ROM Posterior Deltoids Stretch JimenaTobonYoga


Triceps** Stretch:

  • Stand up straight and raise one arm up, bending your elbow to reach as far down your back as possible without discomfort
  • Your opposite hand is placed on top of the elbow of the bent arm
  • Your hand on the elbow is used to pull the elbow toward the back of your head until a stretch can be felt in the triceps, but not so far to cause pain
  • Switch arms and repeat

Triceps Stretch Front JimenaTobonYoga

Triceps Stretch Back JimenaTobonYoga


Caring for your shoulders

Our shoulders are vulnerable to a variety of injuries. The shoulders require a lot of stretching and strengthening exercises. To keep your shoulders safe can be challenging but rewarding. The more you stretch  your muscles, the longer and more flexible they’ll become. That will help to increase your Range-of-Motion (ROM), ward off pain, reduce the risk of injury, and improve your overall health. And, if following an instruction of an exercise or yoga class causes you to feel any pain or pinch, then ignore the instruction or at least back way off. Listen to your body! Always!


For more information on preventing shoulder injury you can read more here:  “Prevent Shoulder Injury When Doing Yoga”


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*Deltoids: The deltoid is the large muscle covering the anterior, posterior, superior, and lateral shoulder, giving the joint its rounded appearance. When you are strengthening your deltoids, make sure to strengthen all three parts, anterior, posterior and lateral deltoids. 


**Triceps  : The triceps, also called triceps brachii, is a large muscle on the back of your upper arm. It’s the muscle principally responsible for extension of your elbow joint (straightening of your arm). 



Jimena Tobon