Best exercises for Shoulder Injury

What are the best exercises to fix my shoulder injury?

Shoulder injuries can cause significant muscle atrophy in the upper body, decreased range of motion, stiffness, even difficulty sleeping due to pain.  The shoulder is very delicate, therefore exercises should start conservatively and progress appropriately on a case by case basis.

I break up these shoulder injury exercises into two phases.  The two phases can be done one at a time for more severe cases such as post-surgery, or concurrently for less severe injuries.  As always, it is important to get exercise clearance from your doctor before beginning.

Best exercises shoulder injury phase 1: range of motion


1. Pendulum:  Position body as so on a bench.  Gently swing arm back and forth for 10-20 seconds.

chest stretch

2. Chest stretch: Make sure thumb points toward ceiling on this to open up the chest and stretch the anterior deltoid.

ball lat stretch

3. Ball lat stretch: This is a great all-around upper body and core stretch.  You will develop better shoulder range of motion.

passive internal rotation

4. Passive internal rotation:  Hold a stick behind your back.  Put the left hand at the end of the stick and right hand with the palm back.  Gently pull the stick to the right.  Then switch hands.

passive external rotation

5. Passive external rotation:  Position the stick in front of the body and hold at ends.  Move stick across body by externally rotating the shoulder, one at a time.

sleeper stretch

6. Sleeper stretch:  Lie on your side, arm up at a 90 degree angle.  Rotate at the shoulder bringing the palm to the floor.  Hold for 20 seconds.


7. Arm circles (both directions):  Begin slowly and with a small range of motion.  Increase circle range as appropriate.


Shoulder injury exercises phase 2: strengthening


1. Internal rotation with band or cable machine:  Pull the band or cable toward your belly button.

2. External rotation with band or cable machine:  Pull the band or cable away from the body.

3. Scapula setting: Lay in the prone position with your palms down.  Raise arms, drawing shoulder blades together.  Keep arms straight.  This can be progressed later to using light dumbbells.

4. Scapular retraction and protractionLay in the prone position on a bench with arm hanging off the bench.  Begin with a light dumbbell such as 3lbs. First relax the shoulder which allows protraction, then raise arm laterally and pause. Repeat 10-15 times. *tip: do not shrug shoulder to ear.

5. Scapula retraction/rear deltoid:  Hold with both hands a band in front of the chest.  Pull band apart to obtain a lateral position with arms (arms will be at 180 degrees). Pause and squeeze shoulder blades together.



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