Tight shoulders and struggling with a low range of motion in your scapula? You could have a tight capsule that is restricting your range of motion. Try these four shoulder posterior capsule stretches to open up the shoulders.

Anatomy of The Posterior Shoulder

The posterior capsule is defined as the region extending from the glenoid rim medially to the humeral head laterally, and from the biceps tendon superiorly to the posterior band IGHL inferiorly, with the posterior band IGHL reinforcing the posterior–inferior capsule.

In english that means that the back (posterior) shoulder joint as well as the connective tissues that surround it.

The tightness of the posterior capsule and the muscle tendon unit of the posterior rotator cuff can limit internal joint rotation. 

Impingement of the shoulder

Damage to the muscles surrounding the shoulder joints is known as an impingement.

Studies by the American journal of medicine show that shoulder impingements can be corrected with the implementation of a stretching regime for the posterior capsule.

The Rotator Cuff

According to WebMD the rotator cuff is made up of muscles and tendons that keep the ball (head) of your upper-arm bone (humerus) in your shoulder socket. It also helps you raise and rotate your arm.

Each one of these muscles is part of the rotator cuff and plays an important role:

  • Supraspinatus. This holds your humerus in place and keeps your upper arm stable. And helps lift your arm.
  • Infraspinatus. This is the main muscle that lets you rotate and extend your shoulder.
  • Teres Minor. This is the smallest rotator cuff muscle. Its main job is to assist with rotation of the arm away from the body.
  • Subscapularis. This holds your upper arm bone to your shoulder blade and helps you rotate your arm, hold it straight out and lower it.

Common Injuries

A rotator cuff tear is often the result of wear and tear from daily use. You’re more likely to have this if you have a job where you need to move your arm a certain way over and over, like a painter or a carpenter, or you play sports like tennis and baseball. It also can happen suddenly if you fall on your arm or try to lift something heavy. It’s usually treated with physical therapy and medication, or you may need surgery.

Tendinitis is inflammation or irritation of a tendon that attaches to a bone. It causes pain in the area just outside the joint. Common types of tendinitis include pitcher’s and swimmer’s shoulder.

Bursitis is when the bursa (a small sac filled with fluid that protects your rotator cuff) gets irritated. That can happen when you repeat the same motion over and over again, like throwing a baseball or lifting something over your head. It also can be caused by an infection.

Strengthening The Rotator Cuff

Posterior Flies

How To:

  • Using a pilates band place it in your right hand.
  • Extend the right arm up towards the sky.
  • Bend the right elbow.
  • Bring the left hand behind your back keeping the arm in line with the torso.
  • Bend through the elbow and use your left hand to hold onto the band inferiorly (below) the right.
  • Your right hand should be facing down towards the floor, while the left hand faces towards the sky.
  • Extend both hands away from the midline of the band.
  • Come back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for three sets of ten repetitions.

Trapezius Extensions

How To:

  • Using a resistance band tie the band around a door knob at the midline of the band.
  • Grabbing the ends of the band with your hands in front of you.
  • The right hand is superior (above) and the left hand is inferior (below) to the right.
  • Squeezing your shoulder blades together extend the right arm above and the left arm below.
  • Repeat for three sets of ten repetitions.

Extended Shoulder Abduction

How To:

  • Using a small looped resistance band place it around your forearms.
  • Extend the arms up and overhead.
  • Engaging your shoulders and muscles surrounding the shoulder blades abduct the hands (move away from the midline of the body), and then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for three sets of ten repetitions.

External Rotations With Resistance Band

How To:

  • Using your resistance band tie it around a door knob.
  • Bring your arm in line with the body and bend the elbow so that your hand is in front of you.
  • Grab the band with the extended hand and externally rotate the hand away from the midline of the body.
  • Repeat for three sets of ten repetitions.

Causes Of Tightness In The Posterior Shoulder

Sports that heavily use the arm can create tightness and irritation. Some of these are baseball, tennis, football and cricket.

“The overhead throwing motion leads to overstress in the posterior-inferior structures of the shoulder that cause repetitive microtraumas and, consequently tightness of the posterior-inferior portion of the capsule and rotator cuff muscles, generating GIRD” (Braz. J et al).

How Far Should I take my shoulder posterior capsule stretch?

On a scale of 1 -10 with 10 being your muscle is ripping of the bone, you want to be around a 4 when it comes to the muscles of the upper body. The muscles and tendons are smaller and more delicate. Secondly if you move past this point you will find that your muscles will contract.

Shoulder Dislocates Front & Side

How To:

  • Kneeling or standing grab a strap or towel and hold it either side. Make sure that the hands are more than shoulder width apart.
  • Keeping the torso still with your ribs knitted with the hips, bring your arms up and over your head continuing until you meet your back. Come back to center.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Bringing your arms to the side of the body repeat the same action.

External Rotation


How To:

  • Kneeling or standing bring your right hand behind your back so that the top of the hand meets the back and the palm is facing away.
  • With your left hand reach over and draw the elbow in towards your midline.
  • Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Lats Release


You will need a peanut to do this exercise.

How To:

  • Laying on your side place the peanut laterally with the lats.
  • Keep your wrist in line with your shoulder. Bend the elbow and gently move the arm back and forth as though you are the wipers on a windshield.

Siesta Stretches

This stretch looks as though it would be as easy as pie. Mind you I find this one quite difficult to hold longer than a few seconds. I like to try and team it up with some of my other stretches such as: When I am taking a supine middle split I will place my arms in the siesta stance. Kill two birds with one stone.

How To:

  • Interlock your fingers together on your chest, and lift both hands and place behind your head.
  • Drop your elbows outwards as shown.
  • (You should feel a pull in the front of your shoulders.) Hold 10 – 15
  • seconds. Repeat exercise 10 times.

Arm Across The Body

How To:

  • Kneeling or sitting sweep the right arm across the body so that it stays in line with your shoulder.
  • Take the left hand to the arm and draw it closer towards you.
  • Hold fo 30 seconds.

Try and implement stretching and strengthening at least three times per week.

Check out my flexibility classes and online coaching.

I would love to hear which shoulder posterior capsule stretch helped you the most!

Let me know in the comments below.

In happiness and health,

Vanessa Barthelmes.

Related Articles

18 Relieving Posterior Capsule Stretches

21 Relieving Upper Body Stretches

15 Easy Ways To Prevent Shoulder Pain

shoulder posterior capsule stretch


Braz. J, Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, vol.17 no.2 São Carlos Apr. 2013. Print version ISSN 1413-3555. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1590/S1413-35552012005000079 

Timothy F. Tyler, Stephen J. Nicholas, Steven J. Lee, Michael Mullaney and Malachy P. McHugh. Internal Impingement, American medical journal. Sports Med 2010 38: 114 originally published online December 4, 2009.

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