Drills and Exercises for Opening Your Shoulders

As a martial artist, the trauma and shear stress on the body are evident when you’ve done it long enough. Torn muscles, broken bones, stitches, and beat up joints. One of the most complex and impacted joints is the shoulder.

The shoulder is the only 360-degree joint in the body; it consists of smooth cartilage that encapsulates a ball and joint, secured by seven primary muscles and a few dozen auxiliary muscles.  Over time, you may find your shoulders sinking inward and improper posture. Today we are going to discuss the critical components of shoulder stability and a few exercises to open and strengthen your shoulders.


Acceleration and Deceleration Exercises

You can gauge a healthy shoulder by two aspects, can it handle the weight, and does it have a full range of motion. Acceleration and Deceleration exercises are simple. You rapidly expand your shoulders to their full range of motion while bearing weight then slowly returning to the starting point in control. These exercises are best with an exercise band.

The first movement is to stand feet shoulder width apart, hands over your head with the band wrapped around your wrists. Extend your arms from a vertical overhead position to parallel, snapping the band behind your head and slowly returning to the starting position.

The second movement is similar to the first but with your hands straight out in front of you, stand up tall and quickly pull the band across your chest by extending your arms to your sides as if they were sliding across a tabletop. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and slowly return your hands to the starting position.


The third is the same as the first two movements but with your hands by your hips, quickly extend the band upward with your thumbs pointing down, concentrating on squeezing your rear deltoids. Slowly return to the starting position.


Repeat these exercises for three sets of ten, two or three days a week.


Full Flexion and Extension of the Shoulder Joint

The next two exercises are straightforward and are incredibly effective in fully flexing and stretching the shoulder joint. All you need is a band and a pull-up bar or fixture to secure the band overhead.

For flexion, secure the band to the bar, take a knee opposite of the shoulder you’re exercising. Fasten the band through the elbow of the shoulder and put your shoulder hand on the back of your neck and straighten your torso and allow your shoulder to squeeze. Hold for two minutes.


Extension is exactly the same position as flexion except for arm placement. Instead of the back of the head, reach up with your free hand and grab your arm with the band strung through your elbow and pull your shoulder across your back under tension of the band with your torso upright. Hold this position for two minutes.


Over time, your shoulder joints structural muscles will be strong enough to hold the shoulder in a healthy position as you train these exercises.




Isometric exercises are challenging but extremely beneficial. If you haven’t tried them out, hold something out in front of you with an outstretched arm for an extended period, it’s one hell of a workout. For the shoulder, side planks! Hold your body parallel to the ground on your elbow and the sides of your feet. Your ear should be pointing at the floor. Lift yourself up, flex your shoulder and screw your elbow into the floor. Repeat the same on the opposite side for two minutes each. Your shoulders will feel like cannonballs by the time you’re finished.