How to Keep Your Shoulders Healthy, Part 1: Mid-Back Mobility | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

How to Keep Your Shoulders Healthy, Part 1: Mid-Back Mobility

April 17, 2012

Must See Baseball Videos

With baseball season in full swing, you must pay close attention to your shoulders—especially if your position involves a lot of throwing, such as pitcher, catcher or shortstop. Constant throwing can cause your shoulder to become tight from overuse. If you don't address this issue, your shoulders could be more susceptible to injury, and you could land on the bench for an extended period of time.

Rotation Issues

When you throw, your shoulder internally rotates. To understand internal rotation, put your arms down at your sides with your palms facing forward. Turn your thumbs in toward your body to internally rotate your shoulders. If the structure that powers and supports this internal rotation becomes stiff or tight, you could suffer from shoulder impingement.

Shoulder impingement occurs when a tendon of the rotator cuff becomes inflamed and rubs against the bones, resulting in pain or damage. This injury will degrade your shoulder strength and upset your throwing mechanics, causing accuracy and velocity issues.

Improve Mid-Back MobilityScapula Diagram

When it comes to alleviating shoulder pain, athletes often focus on the symptom but not the cause. Shoulder impingement and a host of related issues can be avoided if you take a few simple measures, which I discuss below.

If you want to keep your shoulder healthy, focus on improving the mobility of your middle back. You might ask how mid-back mobility can help your shoulders. Next time you look in a mirror, move your arm and notice how your shoulder blades move. The scapula in the back directly acts on the shoulder.

Excessive throwing can cause shoulder issues, but poor posture can also degrade shoulder performance and cause problems. Fortunately, improving mid-back mobility requires only a few minutes each workout. Below are my recommended exercises. Perform them between sets during your upper-body workouts.

Foam Roll Thoracic Extension

  • Lie on ground and place foam roller beneath shoulder blades; keep knees bent and feet flat on ground
  • Place arms across chest, relax neck and tilt head back as far as possible
  • Inhale and extend arms overhead
  • Exhale and bring arms back to chest
  • Repeat arm movements for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2x10-15

Quadruped Thoracic Rotation

  • Assume all-fours position
  • Place hand behind head, keeping elbow in line with hand
  • Rotate shoulders to touch elbow to opposite forearm; keep hips and core stable
  • Rotate in opposite direction so elbow is pointed toward ceiling
  • Repeat pattern for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2×10-15 each side

Quadruped Reach-Through Hand Slide

  • Assume all-fours position
  • Place back of left hand on ground, rotate shoulders and reach to right as far as possible
  • Rotate shoulders and slide hand to left to return to start position
  • Perform in opposite direction
  • Repeat in alternating fashion for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2×10-15 each side


Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a wide variety of topics, including injury prevention, nutrition and improving athletic performance.

Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
Must See
Colin Kaepernick Explains His Ridiculous Socks
Views: 21,753,521
Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court
Views: 2,652,841
Why NFL Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson Counts His Blessings
Views: 1,790,507

Featured Videos

Quest for the Ring: University of Kentucky Views: 224,492
Add Core Power for Basketball With Damian Lillard's Med Ball Throws Views: 4,255,154
Path to the Pros 2015: The Journey Begins Views: 26,383
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises Done the Right Way

For at least a decade now, the general consensus has been that prior to any type of physical activity, a dynamic warm-up is the way to go. While static...

Why and When You Need to Change Your Pre-Game Warm-Up Routine

3 Yoga Twists to Keep You on the Field and Improve Your Game

How Hockey Goalies Can Get More Flexible for a Better Butterfly

Add Warrior Poses to Your In-Season Training

Pro Secrets, Revealed: The Perfect Workout Warm-Up

The Importance of Recovery Workouts

How to Fix 4 Common Tight Areas in Your Body

6 Thoracic Spine Exercises to Improve Mobility

Find Your Effective Pregame Basketball Warm-Up

The Best Stretching Exercise for You

Animal Flow Scorpion Reach for Injury Prevention

Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises for a Safe, Effective Workout

You're Doing It Wrong: The Warm-Up

Improve Your Balance with Stability Ball Exercises

Dig Like a Pro: Exercises for Volleyball Mobility

The Ultimate Pitcher's Warm-Up: 4 Shoulder Exercises with Bands

Are Tight Hips Slowing You Down?

Stay Pain-Free With These Advanced Stretches

Pre-Match Warm-Ups that Will Improve Your Tennis Game

The Most Important Muscle You've Never Heard Of

Mobility Training for Hockey Goalies

How to Release Muscle Knots and Trigger Points

Fundamentals of a Pre-Workout Warm-Up

Best Exercises for Improving Joint Mobility

Improve Your Squat With 6 At-Home Hip Flexor Mobility Exercises

Balance Exercises That Are Game-Changers

Go the Distance With This Baseball Yoga Warm-Up

These 9 Exercises Will Improve Your Hip Mobility

3 Exercises That Fix Common Baseball Hip Mobility Issues

Flexibility for Cross Country From the Ground Up

Must-Have Additions to Your Baseball Stretching Routine

Patrick Peterson's Yoga Workout

Why You Shouldn't Stretch 24 Hours Before a Game

Pre-Workout Warm-Up Steps You Can't Afford to Skip

Increase Your Flexibility Without Stretching

3 Tips To Make Your Stretching Routine More Effective

Reducing Tight Hamstrings without Stretching for Hockey Players

Green Bay Packers Discover Football's Fountain of Youth

A Tight Back May Hurt Your Performance and Health

12 Dynamic Stretches Football Players Must Do