One Weird Trick: Installment 3 – Using Balls to Improve Shoulder Mobility

Many individuals have developed their whole careers to improving shoulder mobility. Before, the complexity of the shoulder girdle had plagued many individuals, whether it is from pain, dysfunction, or “I got this one really weird clicking thing that happens when I move like this,” type scenarios. I don’t claim to fix shoulders, but a funny thing happens when you do this one exercise called “Stir the Pot.”

Now, I’m not talking about stirring a pot of chili – although I would not be surprised that that is the origin of this exercise. In fact, when I first saw this exercise I thought it would be best called the cabbage patch, because of the circular nature of this exercise.

Wow what a throwback.

How Does The Cabbage Patch/Stir the Pot Exercise Help?

Well, thanks for asking Suzie. The first principle to respect involves understanding that sometimes shoulder mobility is limited due to positioning of joints, and activation of specific musculature.

If you find yourself in an extended posture, performing the Stir the Pot will certainly engage your anterior core if performed correctly.

The improvements from simply respecting antagonist and agonist relationships can see massive gains very quickly.

Positioning wise, improving your ability to activate your obliques will improve your positioning of your thoracic diaphragm. Bringing your “belt buckle up to your nose” will bring your pelvic floor/diaphragm into a better synchronous position with your upper body as well.


Next, the interesting portion comes along with the circular motion of the shoulders and forearms on the ball. Interestingly enough, I believe that if done properly, you can achieve small ranges of motion into upward rotation of the scapula.

That is, if you can fix the thoracic diaphragm, and stabilize your upper body/ribcage, your scapulae will now have better ability to move upon this ribcage.


Constant perturbations* from the unstable surface will require a reflexive maneuvering of specific musculature, namely the protractors, abductors, and even retractors and adductors of the scapulae as you perform your “stirring” motion.

Now you aren’t bringing your arms completely overhead obviously, but any improvements in range of motion in an overhead fashion will certainly translate to better motion overall, so you can hopefully do some really cool stuff, like handstands, overhead pressing, or even walking around with no discomfort.

Cues That Will Help

  1. Make sure to push chest and head away from the ground/ball.
  2. Improve motion by placing forearms directly into ball, not just elbows or just hands.
  3. Think of leading or creating small circles with your elbows.
  4. Keep a steady body as you perform this.
  5. Perform this exercise slowly – as you may not receive the same benefit if the exercise is performed in a fast and reactive manner.
  6. For beginners, try performing a stability ball stir the pot on the wall for a wall assisted and easier version.

As always,

Keep it funky.