Improving Overhead Shoulder Mobility

In our ProSport Physiotherapy Huddersfield Clinics, one area we often have to work on with patients is overhead shoulder mobility. It seems to be limited in a large percentage of the population, particularly those with shoulder pain and dysfunction. But even those who are not in pain often come to us to improve this aspect of mobility, as limitations can affect performance in tasks that require good shoulder movement (swimming, climbing, weight-lifting and CrossFit for example).

The good news is that almost anyone can improve their overhead mobility if it is approached correctly!

Use it, or lose it!

It is not surprising that shoulder range of motion is limited in a large percentage of the population. After all, how often to you utilise full overhead shoulder range of motion in your everyday life? Instead we spend increasing amounts of time typing at our computers, texting on smart phones, and driving in our cars which encourages rounded shoulders and tight structures around the shoulder joint.

Combined with this, because we don’t regularly perform the movement, when we do try to get into the overhead position our movement quality is poor. Our brain doesn’t have an automatic movement pattern for the action and takes the path of least resistance to get us into that position – the classic compensation being hyper-extending the lower back and slipping into forward head posture. This gets you into the position, but at the cost of instability and increased risk of injury. We often get patients coming to us in pain after starting to overhead squat/press for this very reason. If the position is difficult to get into, you probably lack the range to execute the movement safely! Try the self test below to find out:


  • Stand with your back against a wall and your feet a few inches away from the wall
  • Anchor your ribcage, head and lower back against the wall (these must maintain in contact at all times)
  • Extend both arms fully out in front of you (elbows straight) and point the thumbs up
  • Now maintain this position as you raise your arms to try to touch the wall overhead

If you can’t reach the wall, or have to increase the curve in your spine (extend your lower back), take your head away from the wall, raise your ribcage to get to the overhead position, or feel any pain throughout the movement then you need to work on your shoulder mobility before performing any overhead exercises.

How can I improve my Overhead Mobility?

Everybody is different, and there are a huge number of possible reasons that your overhead shoulder mobility is limited. Improving overhead shoulder mobility is, therefore, not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. You may have already realised this yourself by trying youtube videos and stretches to no avail! A full assessment is essential. The problem might even lie outside of your shoulder!

We look at your whole body to find out where EXACTLY the issues lie!

At ProSport Physiotherapy we are highly specialised in finding the true reasons that you can’t get into the overhead position. We don’t just perform general shoulder mobility drills and stretches, we find the specific muscles that are tight, overactive, or inhibited and work to restore the balance to give you both the mobility to get there and stability to stay there or hold weight in that position.  We then show you the exercises to maintain it yourself, with access to our online video library so that you can refresh on the exercises as and when you desire.

Contact us below for more information

  • "Dave is a top class Physiotherapist who has got me back from numerous injuries always weeks earlier than expected. Dave's hands on treatment approach is one of the best I have ever experienced. Highly recommended"

    Paul O'Connell
    Paul O'ConnellMunster Rugby, Ireland and British and Irish Lions
  • “I have seen Dave O’Sullivan on several occasions over the last few years and I have always been 100% satisfied by the work he has done and the exercises and advice he has given. In fact, I am often amazed by the way he can work out what is causing what and how to put it right. Usually only 2 or 3 visits are needed, plus exercises done at home. I completed my first marathon 3 years ago, largely due to his expertise – I could hardly walk a week before race-day. I would definitely recommend Pro Sport Physiotherapy (and have done!)”

  • “Just thought i would drop you a line to let you know how im getting on with the stretches and the core work that you suggested. I have been doing these for around an hour to an hour and a half each day since i saw you, the difference i have found is massive. Its hard to explain how i feel whilst running and cycling now, it just feels like my body is more planted. The cyclo cross is finished now, i done my first fell race today on only six running sessions maybe not the best idea in the world however because of the excersises i have been doing my body felt stronger than it ever has. I have no technique at running downhill and would normally end up with a tight back doing that type of race where as this time no tightness. Thanks for all your help and advice”

    KennyCounty Durham
  • “The first time I saw Dave with chronic back pain I was struggling to walk properly when I went in but I walked out more or less back to normal, and this is a normal result for Dave. The treatments are different to any I’ve experienced but my whole posture, long term injuries and problems continue to improve. Although some of the treatments are not pleasant the pain is well worth it for the results gained. If you need a physio go and see Dave and/or his colleagues.”

  • “A 140-mile round trip to visit Dave is well worth it as he’s restored my confidence to overcome injury, using techniques you will probably not encounter elsewhere. Dave’s manner is excellent, taking time to explain things simply and being available to clarify concerns. Many exercises prescribed are provided by video link with is far superior to the dodgy photocopied exercise sheets traditionally supplied as they ensure you can review and perform your rehab using good technique. In my opinion the ProSport experience is years ahead of the game as it adopts the advances being made in its field whereas regular Yellow Pages clincs stick to dated methods. A big plus is that Dave is also interested in getting you right.”

  • “I’d been struggling for the best part of a year with what I (and my old physio) thought was a damaged hamstring. I’d heard about Pro Sport and read about their Soft Tissue Release Techniques and thought I’d nothing to lose by trying a new approach. Thank goodness I did….. Darragh Sheehy correctly identified I actually had a partially trapped Sciatic nerve and set about “releasing” it…. That’s another way of saying pain…..but it really is “no pain, no gain”. After one session I left feeling considerably better. I ran at the weekend with a huge grin on my face……I was thinking “I’m back!” A few sessions later and following Darragh’s exercise regime I’d improved again and within a few months had a new 5k PB.”

  • “Pro Sport Physiotherapy are amazing! I was having trouble with my hip whilst running over a certain distance. Shane worked out within 15 minutes that a tiny set of muscles near scar tissue was preventing my glute and core from firing. I worked on my exercises for a week and returned to my next appointment to find I was cured. A couple of sessions followed to ease my aching muscles now they were working and I am now fully fit to run my first ever half marathon this autumn. I have recommended the company to anyone who will listen. They are professional, knowledgable, fast workers and friendly. 5 star service with a smile :)”

  • “5 years after breaking my leg and 3 surgeries later, Dave O’Sullivan was recommended to me after I received NHS physio where I was told I was a lost cause! Dave’s work is fantastic, I felt an improvement after the first visit and now feel better than ever. He explains everything, follows up the treatment with easy to follow videos and is a nice guy. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Dave!”

    Lucy Flockton, Wakefield
  • "Pro Sport are professionals who take the greatest pride in their work. Their hands on approach to treatment and rehabilitation has helped me to not only be healthier and a more durable athlete but aided in improving  my athletic performance."

    Jamie Peacock
    Jamie PeacockLeeds Rhinos and England
  • "Top class physiotherapists who I would highly recommend and indeed have recommended to family and friends!"

    Eorl Crabtree
    Eorl CrabtreeHuddersfield Giants and England Rugby League



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