Shoulder Dislocation Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures

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By Alex
Last updated on
Exercise NameShoulder Dislocation
Primary MusclesChestShoulders (Front Delt)
Secondary MusclesRotator CuffSerratusUpper Back
FunctionMobility, Flexibilty
MechanicsDynamic stretch
Required Equipment6′ wooden dowel rod
Rep Range5-15
VariationsShoulder Dislocation with Resistance Band
AlternativesBehind the Neck Band Pull Apart, Dip Shrug, Face Pull, Overhead Shrug, Overhead Squat

Shoulder Dislocation Instructions

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Hold dowel rod using a wide overhand grip.
  • Grasp dowel with pinky and forefinger only; don’t wrap other fingers around it.
    • This allows hands to rotate around rod when bringing it behind body.
  • Hang arms down in front of body so dowel is in front of upper thighs.
  • Lock elbows to completely straighten arms.
  • Use a shoulder width stance with feet pointed slightly out.
  • Maintain a neutral spine (i.e. natural spinal curvature) for the duration of the movement.

2. Concentric Repetition

  • Flex shoulders to raise dowel toward ceiling.
  • Rotate shoulder blades upward as dowel moves past face and overhead.
  • Once dowel is overhead, retract shoulder blades and externally rotate shoulders to pull dowel down and behind back, until dowel touches body.

3. Midpoint

  • There is no need to pause before starting the second half of the motion, unless it is to adjust your grip or posture.

4. Eccentric Repetition

  • Retract shoulder blades and flex shoulders to raise bar from behind body, toward ceiling.
  • Rotate shoulder blades upward as dowel moves up past neckline to overhead.
  • Extend shoulders to lower dowel from overhead, to the starting position.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the motion for the desired number of repetitions.
  • I recommend 3-5 sets of between 5-15 repetitions, daily. When starting out, stick to about 5 reps per set. As you become more flexible and improve your mobility, you’ll become comfortable with higher reps.

Common Shoulder Dislocation Errors to Avoid

Excessively arched lower backIf you’re excessively arching your lower back, its probably because you have anterior pelvic tilt (butt out, pelvis tilted down), which causes you to compensate by arching your lower back, to stand straight. So, keep your pelvis neutral (not tilted down, or up) by tensing your glutes and abs.
Bending elbowsDon’t cheat by bending your elbows. Keep your arms straight with elbows fully locked. If you can’t perform the full range of motion without bending your elbows, then use a wider grip.
Going too fastAlways maintain control. Go at a tempo you can handle (I recommend 2 seconds each direction, to start). Don’t accelerate mid-repetition. And most importantly, don’t try to force your way through a sticking point.

Shoulder Dislocation Tips

  1. A 6′ wooden dowel rod (1″-1.5″ diameter) is the ideal piece of equipment. However, any similarly long, thick, light and non-flexible stick – such as a broomstick handle or PVC pipe – should suffice.
  2. Do a general and specific warm up before performing the shoulder dislocation exercise. This entails some light cardio, “shoulder circles” (i.e. hold your arms out at your sides and move in small circles), and some shoulder and pec stretches.
  3. Stand with your chest out, shoulders back, chin in, eyes forward, abs and glutes tight, and pelvis neutral. This ensures strong posture, which is necessary for optimal shoulder and scapular mobility.
  4. Focus on squeezing your upper back muscles when bringing the bar behind you (from overhead) and overhead (from behind).
  5. Start with a very wide grip on your first set.
  6. Progressively narrow your grip width after each set until you reach a sticking point (i.e. when you must bend your elbows to finish the range of motion). Then widen your grip just enough so that you can perform the movement without any issues. Complete any remaining sets using this grip width.
  7. Break past tough a sticking points by trying the following: Perform the movement to the sticking point on the first rep; then return to the starting point. Attempt to go a slightly further on each successive rep (without forcing anything). Over time, you’ll be able to do the full range of motion.
  8. Speed up the tempo as you gain experience. Just don’t be reckless in doing so. Remember, you’ve only got one pair of shoulders!
  9. Swap the dowel rod for a resistance band to emphasize upper back muscle activation. The down side is that a resistance band makes it easier to cheat (intentionally or not), since the band length is variable and easy to manipulate. I advise mastering the original version before trying this one.
  10. Applications for the shoulder dislocation exercise: You can use it as a warm up before major upper body push (e.g. bench press, overhead press) and pull (e.g. bent over row, pull up) movements. You can also use this as part of a daily mobility routine.

Is This Mobility Exercise Right for You?

The shoulder dislocation exercise is fantastic for weight lifters of any experience level who want better posture and greater shoulder and scapular mobility.

Sitting down and hunching over a keyboard or a smartphone for long periods of time has become increasingly common in modern society…

…This body position takes a toll on your posture over time.

Specifically, it tightens your chest and front deltoids while weakening your upper back. This results is poor shoulder shoulder mobility and flexibility, among other ailments.

Shoulder dislocation are one of the best mobility exercises you can do to correct or prevent these issues. Plus, it’ll give you a more confident posture, to boot!

It may be wise to avoid this exercise if you have any shoulder or scapular injuries; or if you have excessively tight upper back muscles and very weak/overstretched front delts and chest muscles (though this is rare).

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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