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Top Shoulder Exercises for Injury Prevention & Recovery
The doctors at Bodywise Physical Therapy & Wellness love to work with peoples’ shoulders. The exercises are fun and progress can be quick and easy to obtain. Although there are thousands of exercises for the shoulder, many of these exercises work specifically with the rotator cuff in the shoulder.
What is The Rotator Cuff?
Your arm is supported with your shoulder by your rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that come together in order to hold your arm in its socket. The rotator cuff attaches the arm to the shoulder blade and helps to lift and rotate your arm. Each of the four muscles has a very specific task and balances out the forces of the others. When working together, the shoulder can move in many different directions and raise and lower the arm. When the rotator cuff is impaired, the arm struggles to lift even easy items and has difficulty reaching above the person’s head.
Our Best Exercises for The Rotator Cuff
Oversimplified, there are some basic exercises that when done correctly will help strengthen the rotator cuff increasing range of motion (ROM) and decreasing pain. Please remember that there are many others that can be just as helpful. The job of your physical therapist is to determine which exercises are right for you and at the right time. They can make shoulder exercises quick, easy, and painless. Before you try any of the below exercises or stretches, talk with a Doctor of Physical Therapy to understand when it should be done.
- Internal Rotation Stretch: Place the hand of the arm to be exercised behind your back and toss a long belt over the opposite shoulder. Grab hold of the belt with the hand behind the back and begin to lift the hand up the back. Pull the belt with the opposite hand to assist with the stretch. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat 3 x.
- Chest Stretch: Begin standing with a doorway about 1-2 feet in front of you. Bend the elbow of the arm to be stretched to 90 degrees, raise the arm so the upper arm is parallel to the floor, and place your forearm on the side of the doorway. Step forward with one foot so that it is on the other side of the doorway. Slowly shift weight onto front foot until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold 15 seconds and repeat 3x.
- Internal Rotation Exercise: Begin by using an exercise band or cable at chest height. Standing perpendicular to the band with the arm you wish to exercise closest to the resistance. Place a towel roll between your elbow and your side and bend the elbow to be exercised to 90 degrees. Slowly bring your hand towards your stomach, keeping your elbow bent and arm at your side.
- Upgraded Internal Rotation Exercise: Much harder to do, begin by placing an exercise band at head height. Stand facing away from the band. Grasp the band with the arm you wish to exercise and lift your arm up to the side until it is parallel with the floor. Bend your elbow until it is at 90 degrees with your fist pointed toward the ceiling. Slowly rotate at your shoulder, bringing your hand forward and away from the door, keeping your upper arm parallel to the ground and your elbow bent to 90 degrees.
- External Rotation Exercise: Begin by placing an exercise band or cable weight at chest height. Standing perpendicular to the resistance with the arm you wish to exercise furthest from the weight. Place a towel roll between your elbow and your side and bend the elbow to be exercised to 90 degrees. Slowly pull the band away from you, keeping your elbow bent and upper arm at your side. Stop rotating after 45 degrees.
- External Rotation Exercise Upgraded: Much harder to do and may require supervision. Begin by placing an exercise band at head height. Stand facing the band. Grasp the band with the arm you wish to exercise and lift your arm up to the side until it is parallel with the floor. Bend your elbow until it is at 90 degrees with your fist pointed toward the band. Slowly rotate at your shoulder, bringing your fist upward toward the ceiling, keeping your upper arm parallel to the ground and your elbow bent to 90 degrees.
- Serratus Activation with Shoulder Flexion: A complex but very effective exercise. Begin in a standing position with your shoulders and elbows flexed to 90 degrees. Place a band loop around your wrists. Movement: Engage your shoulder muscles by stretching the loop until your forearms are vertical at shoulder width apart from each other. Raise your arms up towards the ceiling and return to the starting position without reaching full elbow extension. Do not arch your low back during the exercise.
Choose Bodywise Physical Therapy
A qualified professional such as a Doctor of Physical Therapy or certified personal trainer will be able to correctly determine which exercises are right for you and show you the correct and safest way to perform them. Contact us and we can help you and your shoulder stay healthy.