Home Baseball Content Mobility Exercise of the Week: Supine Alternating Shoulder Flexion on Doubled Tennis Ball

Mobility Exercise of the Week: Supine Alternating Shoulder Flexion on Doubled Tennis Ball

Written on August 12, 2013 at 9:14 am, by Eric Cressey

In this installment of "Exercise of the Week," I've got a great drill you can use to improve upper extremity mobility.  I originally learned this from Sue Falsone of the LA Dodgers a few years ago. 

We've found this to be super helpful not only with folks who have poor thoracic spine mobility, but also those who have limited shoulder flexion and scapular upward rotation.  There's a bit of research and anecdotal evidence out there to support the idea that improving thoracic mobility in turn improves scapular upward rotation and glenohumeral (ball and socket) range of motion.  Basically, by reducing bad stiffness in one area, it makes it easier to establish good stiffness elsewhere – and that provides for better overall mobility.  So, reduced thoracic stiffness = better scapular upward rotation = better ball-and-socket congruency = better arm range of motion.

Internal rotation, in particular, seems to improve the quickest – and that's one reason why we'll always work proximal – positioning breathing, thoracic mobility, scapular control, and soft tissue work – before we ever stretch a throwing shoulder.  The glenohumeral joint is somewhat of a delicate one, so you never want to crank on it – especially if you haven't exhausted more conservative options.  This fits that bill.

Additionally, some folks with a more adducted scapula positioning will benefit quite a bit from this drill, as it essentially works out to self myofascial release on overactive rhomboids.  Get them to relax, and the shoulder blade will move better on the rib cage.


All you need is a doubled tennis ball and some masking or duct tape.  Tape two balls together, and then go follow the instructions below.

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14 Responses to “Mobility Exercise of the Week: Supine Alternating Shoulder Flexion on Doubled Tennis Ball”

  1. Francesca Says:

    You say that folks with more adducted scapula will benefit from this, so would this drill be contraindicated for someone with scapular winging and/or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

  2. forneyabbott Says:

    amazing timeing just yesterday just had a young man come by with this exact problem this is just the fix to help loosen him up for more range of motion,he is very lucky because he was not haveing pain he just looked so stiff its a wonder he could throw i put him on all four had him roll his elbow under his chest to helpthis will bethe clincher for him foam rolling he was doing foam rolling accrding to him as i could see it would take a long time. this will get him rollihg better.. thanks so much. a question is this your e-book on pitching mechanics.

  3. Justin Sorbo CSCS Says:

    Love the tennis/lax peanut, use it often. I’ve had a lot of success improving shoulder flexion/IR with the addition of holding some extra weight on the chest (ie med ball or 45 lb plate). Also, Kelly Starrett’s compression flossing system is simply incredible for IR – best/fastest I’ve ever seen.


  4. Alexander Says:

    Great movement, it would be particularly beneficial for workers’ rehab. By the way, are you aware that Athletic Trainers can be certified to care for workers’ compensation rehabilitation cases? Check out the CWcHP certification, it brings A.T.’s directly into healthcare. Here’s the link


    AND it can increase the number of clients you or your clinic are caring for.

  5. Brian Seelos Says:

    Great tip. A lot of our athletes have limited mobility in the shoulders, so I’ll give this a shot.

  6. Andy Wright Says:

    Hi Eric,
    Some peoples’ thoracic curve may have a higher or lower sagittal peak, so do you find yourself placing the tennis balls at different vertebral levels depending on their thoracic curvature? And would you modify it (i.e. head positioning) differently for someone with a Dowager’s hump? Thanks!

  7. Shane Says:

    Thanks Eric. love your mobility stuff.

  8. James Cipriani Says:

    Love this mobility exercise. I use it frequently…and I’m no thrower 🙂

  9. Stephen Says:

    Great post I am having a lot of issues with my shoulders at the moment. Where exactly on the upper back should the ball be placed in terms of which muscle. Also should I be breathing into my ribs during the inhale ?
    Thanks a bunch

  10. Eric Cressey Says:


    We’ll definitely work in a few different spots with this.

  11. Eric Cressey Says:


    Not necessarily.  They may still benefit.  Hard to say without an evaluation.

  12. Scott Gunter Says:


    Big fan of the double tennis ball or “Peanut” as I call it. I was wondering, since this is a much more targeted approach than a foam roller, do you perform this between varying thoracic vertebrae up and down the T-Spine? Furthermore, do your evaluations include joint play to look at differences in movement between each vertebral segment and then target your approach based on those results?


  13. Brent Says:

    Isn’t this just working t-spine extension, or is there some rotation going on in there as well?

  14. Eric Cressey Says:


    Probably a small amount of t-spine rotation because of the unilateral stance, but I’d consider it insignificant.

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