Shoulder internal rotation mobility exercises are focused specifically on the range of motion of the shoulder joint when the arm is rotated inward towards the midline of the body. The normal range of motion for internal rotation of a healthy shoulder is 70 to 90 degrees.
When you are experiencing limited shoulder internal rotation, it can affect your daily activities or athletic performance. You may feel difficulty reaching behind your back or putting on a jacket. Or maybe have general pain and discomfort when your arms are over your head.
To assess your shoulder’s internal rotation mobility, you can perform a test by standing with your back flat against a wall and raising your arms to your side in contact with the wall. Then, rotate your arms down so that your palms are touching the wall, with the arms dropping or shoulders coming forward. If you experience pain or have any questions, speak to a professional.
In our series discussing Shoulder Mobility we have looked at ‘How to Increase Shoulder Range of Motion‘, in Part 2 we shared ‘The Top 8 Shoulder Mobility Exercises‘ and now, in Part 3, we are zeroing in on Shoulder Internal Rotation Mobility Exercises. Our goal is help you comprehensively care for the health of your shoulders.
Common Causes of Limited Shoulder Internal Rotation Mobility
Limited internal rotation can occur because of various factors, including:
- Limited muscular flexibility: Stiff or tight soft tissues can limit the range of motion of the shoulder joint.
- Excessive tightness in the joint capsule: The joint capsule is a fibrous structure that surrounds the shoulder joint, and excessive tightness can limit the motion of the joint.
- Poor alignment of the shoulder complex: Poor posture and muscular imbalances can affect the alignment of the shoulder complex.
- Repetitive overhead or cross-body movements: These motions can cause shoulder internal rotation muscles to become injured.
- Humeral and glenoid retroversion: a structural abnormality that can limit internal rotation.
- Increased external rotation from capsular laxity: can occur in overhead athletes and lead to posterior internal impingement.
How often should you do Internal Rotation Stretches?
The frequency of shoulder internal rotation stretches depends on your needs and goals. If you have limited internal rotation it is recommended to perform stretches daily to improve flexibility and range of motion. However, if you have excess internal rotation mobility, stretching may not be necessary and may even be detrimental.
You should assess and address the underlying cause of reduced mobility to prevent injuries and maintain the proper function of the shoulder joint. A physical therapist or physician can help identify the cause and develop a treatment plan.
5 Effective Internal Rotation Mobility Exercises for Your Shoulder
Exercising this area will have several benefits, such as improving upper body function, reducing the risk of injury, enhancing sports performance, and increasing range of motion. As you improve you can try other shoulder workouts to build up your upper back. Try these:
1. Sleeper Stretch
Benefits: Helps improve internal rotation range of motion, reduces shoulder pain or impingement, and enhances overhead mobility.
Exercise: Lie on your side with the affected shoulder on the bottom. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees and place your forearm on the bed or mat. Gently press your forearm down towards the bed until a stretch is felt in the back of the shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
2. Internal Rotation with Resistance Band
Benefits: Strengthens the muscles involved in internal rotation, improves shoulder stability, and enhances functional movement patterns.
Exercise: Attach a resistance band to a sturdy anchor point. Stand sideways with the band across your body and hold it with the hand of your affected shoulder. Keep your elbow at a 90-degree angle and rotate your arm inward, against the resistance of the band. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions on each side.
3. Reverse Prayer Pose
Benefits: Increases internal rotation flexibility, stretches the muscles and tendons of the shoulder and upper back, and improves posture.
Exercise: Stand or sit tall with your palms facing each other behind your back. Press your palms together and slide them upwards towards the upper back until you feel a stretch in the shoulders and chest. Hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat several times.
4. Cross-Body Stretch
Benefits: Stretches the muscles involved in internal rotation, promotes better shoulder mobility, and helps alleviate muscular tightness or discomfort.
Exercise: Extend one arm across your chest at shoulder height. Use the other arm to gently pull the extended arm closer to your body, feeling a stretch in the back of the shoulder. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
5. Foam Roller Thoracic Mobility
Benefits: Improves thoracic spine mobility, indirectly enhances shoulder internal rotation, and promotes better posture and movement mechanics.
Exercise: Lie on a foam roller horizontally with it positioned at the level of your shoulder blades. Place your hands behind your head or across your chest. Gently roll up and down, allowing the foam roller to massage and mobilize your thoracic spine. Perform for 1-2 minutes.
The Best Equipment to help with Shoulder Internal Rotation Mobility Exercises
Here are some fitness accessories and exercise equipment that can help improve shoulder internal rotation mobility:
- Resistance bands: Resistance bands help perform various rotation exercises, such as the sleeper stretch and the cross-body stretch.
- Dumbbells: Dumbbells are great for performing internal rotation exercises, such as the dumbbell internal rotation exercise.
- Stretch strap: A stretch strap can be used to perform soft tissue mobilization and improve shoulder internal rotation mobility.
- A tennis ball or lacrosse ball: A tennis ball or lacrosse ball assists with gentle soft tissue mobilization of the shoulder, which can decrease muscle tone and improve shoulder internal rotation.
- Foam Roller: Using a foam roller for shoulder tension can help relax the tendons and ligaments
You’ll find this equipment either in your gym or you can easily create your home gym to make them more accessible.
Remember to consult a physical therapist or physician to determine the appropriate exercises and equipment for your specific condition, as well as to ensure proper form and prevent further injury.
This is Part 3 of the ‘Shoulder Mobility‘ series.