Top Stretches for Tight Shoulders

Whether it is having poor posture, awkward sleeping position or working particular type of job, tight shoulders are a common issue in today’s world. This can extend into other areas of the upper body including the neck and upper back, causing further discomfort. Spending 5 minutes a day performing these simple stretches is a good first step to increasing shoulder mobility.

It’s important to make sure that your tight shoulders aren’t a result of a biomechanical issue or old injury. If you do have nagging tightness that doesn’t seem to resolve with a consistent gentle stretch routine, or some of the positions are uncomfortable (in a bad way), make an appointment with your GP or physiotherapist, stat! If you know that your tight shoulders are because you don’t know where to start and need a few simple stretch suggestions,

These stretches are divided into two parts, stretches for the posterior muscles and shoulder capsule, and pectoral stretches.

Shoulder Stretch #1 Cross Body Stretch

– Stand with feet hip width apart

– Extend the left arm straight in front of your body and cross over to the right hand side

– Use right hand to clasp left elbow until desired stretch is achieved

– Hold for 20-30 seconds then repeat with the other arm

– Alternatively you can use your forearm to pull the straight arm across the body for a deeper stretch

Shoulder Stretch #2 Cow Face

– Sitting on a stool or standing with feet hip width apart

– Reach behind your head, holding the top end of a towel

– With the right hand reach behind your lower back, grasping the other end of the towel

– Hold for 20-30 seconds then repeat with the other arm

– Despite the strange name, this is a common yoga pose!

Shoulder Stretch #3 Downward Dog Against Wall

– Stand approximately arms length away from the wall

– With straight arms, bend at the hip and place the palms of your hands on the wall

– Gently lean “downward” until desired stretch is achieved

– Keep knees soft or slightly bent if you’re feeling this mostly in hamstrings

– Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds

– The traditional version (downward dog) of this is done with your hands on the floor, but as we’re focusing on shoulders, the wall version is perfect!


The pectoral muscles originate at the sternum (breastbone) and insert at the top of the humerus, where your shoulders are. When pectoral muscles are tight, they cause the shoulders to become internally rotated and limit its range of motion. This can create difficulty raising your arms above your head and ultimately leave you hunched over. Incorporating pectoral stretches into your upper body stretching routine can do wonders for your shoulder mobility. The below stretches will really help you open up your chest.


Shoulder Stretch # 4. Doorway Arm Stretch (pecs)

– Standing in between a doorway raise both arms to the side at shoulder height. Using the forearms create a 90 degree angle upward.

– Place forearms on door frame

– Lean forward until stretch is felt

– Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds

– This can also be done with one arm at a time. Try adjusting your elbow placement / height to stretch different muscle fibers along the chest and find the one that feels best

Shoulder Stretch #5. Standing Chest Expansion

– Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with a slight bend in the knees

– Reach the hands behind your back and clasp your fingers

– With your hands together slowly raise your hands away from the tailbone. The further away the hands are from your torso, the greater the stretch

– Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds

– If you are unable to clasp your hands behind your back, a towel can be used to make is easier on your joints

Shoulder Stretch #6: Above The Head Seated Chest Stretch (pecs)

– Sitting down on a chair with a backrest, keep your feet shoulder width apart

– Clasp your hands together behind your head

– Draw your elbows back and focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together

– Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds

– Alternatively this can be done standing up

Creating a consistent stretching schedule (starting with 3 or 4 times a week, or even a gentle daily routine) will return you to moving freely again and enjoying activities that you thought you could no longer do.

Did we miss any of your favourite stretches? Tell us in the comments below!

Kevin Kwok – Client Care Manager

kevin3Kevin enrolled in numerous sports program as a child, which exposed him to an active lifestyle early in life. He played ultimate frisbee competitively in at the junior level while in high school. Kevin now focuses his training exclusively on dragon boating. He has been paddling for the past 2 years and hopes to make the Canadian National Team in 2019. He hopes he can motivate others to accomplish their short and long term fitness goals

Related Posts