Exercises For Tight Shoulders

Do your dancers have tight shoulders? Dancers need to be flexible in this area, so here are seven exercises for tight shoulders that you and your students can do in class or at home. 

If you are an Acro or Gymnastics teacher and you have students who have tight shoulders, they will most certainly struggle with the basic tricks like Bridge Recovers and Back Walkovers. 

Tight shoulders are a very common problem now as children spend a lot more time hunched over technology than they used to, so we as teachers need to give them the tools necessary for success in the dance studio.

Exercises for tight shoulders

Who Needs Exercises For Tight Shoulders?

If your student pushes up into a bridge, and his or her shoulders are not stacked over their wrists, then this is a sign that your student has tight shoulders. Before progressing to more advanced tricks that use the bridge, it is a good idea to give your student some exercises to help them to get the flexibility that they need to progress further.

For most adults, the neck and the upper back area hold a lot of tension, and the amount of time spent in front of a computer with a forward head and shoulder posture increases the stress on the soft tissue and joints in your neck and shoulders.

Stress can also be a problem, as when you have high-stress levels, your rib cage can drop slightly causing your shoulders and upper back to round forward into a slouch.

Seven Exercises For Tight Shoulders

Here are some simple exercises for tight shoulders that you can give your students to do at home to improve their shoulder flexibility and thus their acro technique. They are safe and easy to do at home.

As an adult, these exercises can benefit you too, as they are not difficult to do and they will help you with your stress levels and posture.

Tight Shoulder Stretch Number 1:

Stand flat against the wall facing the wall. Place the inside of your arm or arms flat against the wall at shoulder height. Walk your arms up the wall and feel how the stretch changes.

Tight Shoulder Stretch Number 2:

Face the bar and hold on with both hands. Walk your legs away from the bar until your back is parallel to the floor. Keep your feet hip distance apart and stick your seat out. Try to keep your elbows close together and sink your chest down to the floor. Feel the stretch happening underneath your arms. At home, your students can hold onto a table or countertop.

Tight Shoulder Stretch Number 3:

Stand with your feet hip distance apart and interlace your fingers behind your back. Bend over forwards and let your arms reach up behind you keeping them straight. Be careful not to put pressure on your elbow joint. Hold the stretch as high as you can.

If you battle to interlace your fingers behind you, use a towel or a strap and grab onto it behind your back with your hands as close together as you can get them.

Tight Shoulder Stretch Number 4:

Do a bridge with your arms as close to the wall as possible. Aim to get your armpits as close to the wall as possible.

Tight Shoulder Stretch Number 5:

This stretch opens your chest and strengthens your shoulders. Start by standing in a doorway with your elbows and arms forming a 90-degree angle. Step your right foot forward as you press your palms into the sides of the door frame. Lean forward engaging your core and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. 

Repeat the process with your left foot forward and do each side two or three times in a session.

Tight Shoulder Stretch Number 6:

This one is called the Cow Face Pose. Reach your right arm straight up, bend your elbow, and let your hand fall behind your head. Move your left arm behind your back and bend the arm, letting the back of your left hand rest against your right shoulder blade (or as close to it as possible).  exercises for tight shoulders

Reach to grab your right fingertips with your left hand. Remember to repeat the exercise on the other side. Again if you can’t reach your other hand, a towel or strap is a good option. Remember to press your shoulders down while doing this pose.

Tight Shoulder Stretch Number 7:

Stand next to a wall nice and close. Make slow big circles with the arm closest to the wall getting as close to the wall as you can. Repeat ten times in each direction before turning around to do the other arm.

Please feel free to comment below if you have any other great ideas to get your pupils more flexible in this area, as I am sure I am not the only one who has seen this problem in dance class.

    12 thoughts on “Exercises For Tight Shoulders”

    1. I would want to express my gratitude to you for writing such an informative and detailed piece on exercises for tight shoulders. This is actually a very significant post that needs to be read. These are the kinds of workouts that I always do first thing in the morning. I anticipate that the workouts will result in my shoulders becoming more tense. Keep publishing like this. I most certainly will share this.

    2. Thank you for the info about the different exercises for the tight shoulders. I am so glad that I found this article because I constantly have tightness in my shoulders from all of my weightlifting. This gives me lots of pain and makes it hard for me to sleep at night. I hope this will help me relieve some of the pain.

      • Hi Cody,

        Next time you do your weight lifting workout, try stretching out those muscles straight afterwards, and I am sure you will feel a lot less stiffness and pain, especially the next day.

    3. I find this post very helpful even if I am not a dancer or a dance instructor because I often suffer from tight shoulders because of the nature of my job. So, thank you for these seven exercises. I think I can manage to do them at least 2 or 3 times a week. 

      It’s important to exercise every part of our body, especially those that we always use in our daily tasks. I heard one doctor say there are exercises we can do daily for our hands and fingers to keep them in shape. This goes the same with our shoulders which often get affected when we do some activities such as lifting and carrying objects. 

      By the way, how long should we do these exercises daily and should we do them all? Or can we just pick and choose any of them and our tight shoulders will be relieved?

      • Hi Alice,

        The beauty of these exercises is that they are easy just to slip into your day when you feel that you need them. Nothing better than a good shoulder stretch after sitting at your desk for hours. Everyone is different, so there are no hard and fast rules about how often you should do them. Your body will talk to you.

    4. In our classes, exercise is a part of our curriculum. It helps make the body’s muscles flexible and easy to move. Top of it is that it makes students easier to teach and healthy. I like the cow face pose exercise. Although your target is to work on the shoulders, I believe it will help the back and make it much more flexible.

    5. As I was reading your post, I started wondering why this is addressed to only dancers. Then, as I continued, I saw that you did include others. I am so very glad because we can all benefit from these exercises. You are absolutely correct in that we hold tension in our necks and shoulders. As adults, we tend to bend forward because of computer use.

      This happens also because of aging. I am very glad you showed us a photo. I would love to see photos of how the others look when practiced. Thank you very much for this informative post.

    6. Tight shoulders can be a problem for us all.  You mention dancers, acro, and gymnasts as two that would have these problems. I am familiar with gymnasts and how they perform.  I’m not as familiar with acro dancers.  How are they different from gymnasts? I know that people who run and use their arms in sports can have them also. I’m thinking maybe weightlifters, too. Right? I’m glad you pointed out that adults can have tight shoulders, as well. The exercises you list are beneficial to lessen tight and sore shoulders. You are right and I know because I have tried them.  

      Exercise number one and exercise number six Cow Face Pose are exercises that the physical therapist had me do after surgery for a rotator cuff tear.  They helped immensely with stretching.   Tight shoulder stretch number three is one that we do after exercising to stretch and cool down. 

      They do relieve tension as well.  Adults hold much of it there, as you mention.  The relief felt after doing these is significant.  I’m glad to have read this post.  Do you suggest warming up before doing these and on an as-needed or regular basis?  Thank you. 

      • Thanks for stopping by Hazel. To answer your question Acro and gymnastics are very similar, but gymnastics makes more use of apparatus while Acro is more dance based. 


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