What Is a Wall Crawl Exercise?

The wall crawl improves shoulder function, which can boost your performance.
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The wall crawl stretch often shows up in physical therapy settings as a means to increase the range of motion in the shoulders after injury or surgery. As the name implies, the exercise involves standing close to a wall and crawling upward along the wall with your fingertips. Whether your goal is to rehabilitate your shoulder, improve your golf swing or just reach the upper kitchen cabinets more easily, the wall crawl can help you.

The Basics

For the basic variation of the exercise, stand facing a wall, place your palms on the wall in front of your chest and walk your hands directly upward along the wall. For a side-facing variation that also targets the obliques, stand with one side of your body adjacent to the wall and let the hand that is closest to the wall do the crawling. In both front-facing and side-facing versions of the wall crawl, you may increase the intensity of the stretch by stepping toward the wall. Think of moving your armpit closer to the wall as your fingers climb.

Form and Frequency

Your shoulders should remain square as you crawl slowly and carefully along the wall. When you hit the highest point possible without pain or a lapse in form, you can hold the position for five to 10 seconds before slowly walking your fingers back down. As you hold the position at the height of your stretch, breathing evenly will help you relax into the stretch. Aim to repeat the stretch five to 10 times during a single session, crawling a bit higher with every repetition. For best results, shoot for one to three sessions daily.


You'll get better results from the wall crawl -- and lower your risk of stretch-related injury -- if you precede the exercise with a quick warm-up. Take just three to five minutes to march in place while pumping your arms back and forth. Follow with a dynamic stretch -- such as slow shoulder rolls -- to further prepare your shoulders for the wall crawl. During the wall crawl itself, relax your jaw, neck and upper torso and avoid shrugging your shoulders, arching your back or leaning toward the wall.


When you perform the wall crawl, you've got to notice your body's cues. A feeling of tension or slight pulling in the shoulder is normal, but pinching, clicking, popping, numbness and outright pain are not. These are indicators that you've pushed the stretch too hard and you should stop immediately. When you reach the highest comfortable point of the stretch, it's important to avoid bouncing or jerking. If you've just had an injury or surgery, speak to your doctor or physical therapist about the advisability of the wall crawl. Once you get her OK to perform the exercise, ask her to check your technique before going solo.

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