Shoulder Exercises

We have shoulder exercises for rehabilitation of specific injuries. We have also categorized them into early, mid and late stage exercises although this is only a guide and we recommend seeking professional advice.

Exercises for specific injuries

Important aspects to shoulder rehabilitation

It is essential an accurate diagnosis of your injury is made before beginning any shoulder rehabilitation. Identifying the cause of injury as well as any particular structures such as rotator cuff which may be injured is important so the shoulder rehabilitation program can address them. Stabilization of the shoulder girdle (includes shoulder blade) as well as any deficit in spine function is important to prevent a shoulder injury recurring.

Mobility & stretching

These exercises increase the range of movement at the shoulder joint and are often used in the early stages of rehabilitation.

Pendulum Exercises

Pendulum exerciseThe aim of Pendulum exercises is to mobilize the shoulder joint in the early stages of rehabilitation. The athlete stands as shown with the bodyweight resting on the uninjured shoulder and gently allows the arm to swing. Keeping the injured shoulder relaxed, bodyweight is shifted between the feet to initiate a back and forwards motion. Standing with the feet level and at shoulder width, transferring the weight from right to left can be used to increase side to side movement.

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Pole mobility / wand exercises

Pole mobility exercisesWand exercises use a long pole such as a broom stick to move the injured arm. The other arm powers the movement and the injured arm is kept relaxed as it is moved throughout it's range of motion. The aim is to gradually increase shoulder mobility. Use the pole or stick to navigate the injured arm to avoid excess stress. Follow the movements shown in the videos; flexion, lateral rotation, medial rotation, abduction and horizontal flexion/extension.

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Superior capsule stretch

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To stretch the top of the shoulder a rolled up towel can be placed between the bent elbow and the body. The other hand pulls the elbow inwards. A rolled up towel is placed between the arm and the side of the body. With the elbow bent, the athlete pulls the elbow towards the body using the other hand.

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Injury ImageSupraspinatus Active Stretch

This exercise stretches the Supraspinatus muscle, which is one of the rotator cuff muscles. Bring the arm back and use the other hand to pull the arm across the back. Once a stretch is felt hold for up to 20 or 30 seconds.

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Strengthening exercises

The following exercises strengthen the shoulder joint. Isometric or static exercises which do not involve movement are usually done initially, progressing to dynamic shoulder exercises with movement. Eventually more functional or sports specific exercises are done.

Isometric shoulder exercises

Isometric shoulder flexionIsometric shoulder exercises involve contracting the muscle without moving the limb, shown here with resistance provided from the wall. They can be done for a range of different shoulder movmements to strengthen the muscles around the entire joint including adduction, abduction, flexion, extension and rotation.

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Scapular squeeze

Scapular squeeze exerciseIn a sitting position with the elbows by the side the athlete squeezes the shoulder blades together, holding for 5-10 seconds. This strengthens the rhomboids and middle trapezius. The aim is to strengthen the muscles which stabilize the scapula or shoulder blades during the early phase of a rehabilitation program although can also be continued into the mid stages. The athlete squeezes the shoulder blades or scapulae together while ensuring the elbows are kept down.

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Bouhler exercises

Strengthens the middle back muscles and the lower trapezius. Static muscular contractions using the wall as resistance. Ensure the abdominals are tighened and the back is flat against the wall. Exercise 1 - Patient pushes the thumbs to the wall, hold for 5 seconds, relax and repeat. Exercise 2 - The patient pushes the backs of the hands into the wall. Hold for 5 seconds, rest and repeat. Exercise 3 - The arms are positioned at a 45 degree angle from horizontal and then pushed back into the wall. Ensure the elbows are straight and shoulder blades retracted (pulled together).

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Abduction in Scapula Plane

Abduction in the scapular plane works the front deltoid and supraspinatus muscles. Like a lateral raise shoulder exercise but with the arm slightly forwards at 45 degrees to the body. The arm is lifted upwards with a straight elbow.

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Bilateral Extension Shoulder Exercise

The aim here is to increase mobility and strengthen downward rotators and of the scapula. Start just in front of the body and pull the arms backwards, squeezing the shoulder blades together and down. Keep the elbows straight.

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Bouhler Shoulder Exercises

Bouhler exercises are excellent for the shoulder blade muscles and the middle of the back particularly in the early stages. Isometric or static contractions are done with the arms in various positions against a wall. Makes sure elbows are straight.

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External Rotation with Retraction

This exercise strengthens the rhomboids and middle trapezius. With the arms by the sides and the elbows bent, the athlete holds a resistance or elastic band between their hands and rotates outwards.

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Scapula pull down shoulder exercise

The scapula pull down shoulder exercise strengthens the muscles around the shoulder blade. Small movements are required with the emphasis on moving the shoulder blade rather than the whole shoulder or arm.

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Scapula Upwards Rotation Shoulder Exercise

The scapula upwards rotation works the scapula rotators. With a light weight or dumbelle in the hand and thumb facing forwards, the athlete raises the arm, at a 45 degree angle to the body ensuring the shoulders are not shrugged during.

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Seated Row Shoulder Exercise

The seated row works the rhomboids and middle trapezius muscles using a resistance band. The athlete sits with the band looped around the feet. They pull the arms back, bending the elbows, until the hands are level with the chest.

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Bent Over Row Shoulder Exercise

The bent over row exercise works the upper and mid back muscles. The centre of the band is positioned under the foot and the ends are held in each hand. The athlete pulls upwards on the band, bending the elbows out behind them.

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Chest Pass

The chest pass shoulder exercise improves explosive strength of the upper body. The athlete stands one meter from a rebound net or partner and forcefully throws a medicine ball from chest height with both hands then repeat.

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Diagonal Plane Exercises

The athlete holds one end of a resistance band starting with the arm raised out to the side above shoulder height. The arm is pulled down across the body so that hand reaches the other hip. It is important the athlete maintains joint stability.

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Extension in prone with dumbell

Shoulder extension in a prone lying position (on the front) to strengthen the posterior shoulder muscles and the back. Keeping the scapula depressed the athlete moves the arm and weight out backwards and upwards.

 

Front Raise Shoulder Exercise

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This front raise requires a resistance band and strengthens the front of the shoulder, specifically the anterior deltoid muscle. The athlete places one end of the elastic band under one foot and lifts the arm forwards and upwards.

 

Hand Walking on Treadmill / Stool

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This exercise can either be carried out on a treadmill or a stool with casters or wheels. The athlete walks on their hands either supporting their weight on the stool or walking on their hands on a treadmill in the gym.

 

Hands Up / Robbery Shoulder exercise

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The Hands Up Robbery shoulder exercise strengthens the lower trapezius. Stand with the hands by the sides then bend the bend the elbows to bring the hands up, palms forward. Make sure the shoulder blades are squeezed together.

 

Internal Shoulder Rotation with Band

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Internal (medial) shoulder rotation exercises strengthen the rotator cuff muscles which stabilise the shoulder joint. Working these muscles is important after shoulder injuries, especially dislocations and impingement syndromes.

 

Lat Pull Down Shoulder Exercise

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This shoulder exercise uses a resistance band to improve latissimus dorsi muscle strength as well as the teres major and biceps muscles. The band is anchored at a high point with the ends held in each hand. The athlete then pulls down.

Lateral Raise Shoulder Exercise

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The lateral raise exercise uses a resistance band to strengthen the deltoids muscles on the top of the shoulder. The arm is kept straight and raised out the side, then lowered. Band can be anchored under the foot.

Lateral Rotation Abduction

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This is a good rotator cuff exercise where the shoulder rotates outwards in an abducted position out to the side. It can be done in a standing position or sitting or kneeling with the elbow resting on a supporting surface such as a bench.

Lateral Rotation Band Abduction

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This lateral rotation exercise strengthens the rotator cuff and requires a resistance band

Lateral Rotation in Side Lying

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Lateral Rotation side lying is another rotator cuff exercise to strengthen the teres minor, infraspinatus and the posterior deltoid. In a side-lying position with the arm supported and elbow bent to a right angle, the athlete lifts the weight.

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Lateral Rotation in Standing

This is a good rotator cuff exercise where the shoulder rotates outwards in an abducted position out to the side. It can be done in a standing position or sitting or kneeling with the elbow resting on a supporting surface such as a bench.

 

Lateral Rotation Prone

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Another good exercise for the rotator cuff muscles in particular the teres minor, infraspinatus and back of the deltoid. The athlete lies on their front with the arm out to the side and elbow bent. Can be done with a dumbelle or resitance band.

 

Lawn Mower Shoulder Exercise

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The lawn mower is a good shoulder exercise used to improve scapular stabilization and back of the shoulder. It is named as such because the movement mimics the action required to start a rotational petrol lawn mower.

 

Medicine Ball Alphabet

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This medicine ball drawing exercise strengthens the deltoid and the rotator cuff muscles. With the arm straight in front and slightly to the side, the athlete holds a small ball in the hand. They then spell out the alphabet with the ball.

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Medicine Ball Balance Shoulder Exercise

This exercise focuses on scapular stabilization and is a plyometric exercise designed to work the upper body whilst maintaining control of the shoulder. Aim is to maintain balance whilst keeping your shoulder blades rounded forwards.

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Medicine Ball Rotation - Seated

The medicine ball rotation shoulder exercise involves catching and throwing a ball using internal shoulder rotation to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles. This late stage exercise increases the explosive internal rotation strength.

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Medicine Ball Rotation - Supine

The medicine ball rotation strengthens the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder. The athlete lies on their back and catches the ball as it is dropped. This is progressed to throwing the ball back, using a bigger ball or greater height.

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Medicine Ball Rotation From Behind

This shoulder exercise strengthens the rotator cuff and scapular muscles dynamically. The therapist tosses the ball to the athlete, who catches it, controls the rotation of the shoulder before throwing the ball back.

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Overhead Toss Shoulder Exercise

This shoulder exercise enhances the co-ordination of the shoulders and trunk. Lying on the floor the athlete throws the ball overhead to the therapist and simultaneously moves into a sit-up position and catches the return ball.

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Pec Fly

This exercise strengthens the chest muscles using a resistance band. The arms start out to the sides at chest height with the elbows straight. The athlete pulls the arms in front of the body, until the hands meet in front.

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Pendulum Exercises

The aim of Pendulum exercises is to mobilize the shoulder joint in the early stages of rehabilitation. The athlete stands as shown with the bodyweight resting on the uninjured shoulder and gently allows the arm to swing.

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Plyometric Push Ups

This plyometric push-up exercise is great for improving upper body strength and explosive power. A very late stage shoulder rehabilitation exercise idea for sports specific training and shoulder rehabilitation.

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Pole Mobility Shoulder Exercises

Wand exercises use a long pole such as a broom stick to move the injured arm. The other arm powers the movement and the injured arm is kept relaxed as it is moved throughout it's range of motion.

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Prone Fly Shoulder exercise on Swiss Ball

The prone fly shoulder exercise strengthens the rhomboids and the middle trapezius. This uses a gym ball and weights to strengthen the rhomboid muscles as well as the middle trapezius muscles.

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Prone Horizontal Abduction

The horizontal abduction exercise strengthens the teres minor and the infraspinatus muscles along with the posterior deltoid and the scapular stabilizers at the back of the shoulder. The arm is kept straight.

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Push Up against a Wall

The Push-up performed against a wall strengthens the chest muscles as well as the scapula muscles. It is an easier version of the normal press up. It can also be performed explosively later in the rehabilitation program.

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Resistance Band Pullover Shoulder Exercise

The pullover exercise uses a resistance band to work the chest muscles (pecs) and lats. With the band anchored behind the athletes head, the arms are pulled up and over the head.

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Reverse Fly Shoulder Exercise

Reverse fly using resistance band works the middle trapezius and rhomboids at the back of the shoulder. Athlete holds the resistance band or pulley slightly below shoulder level and pulls towards chest by pulling arms backwards.

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Scapular Protraction Shoulder Exercise

This scapula protraction exercise works the Serratus Anterior muscle. The band should be anchored just below shoulder level. The elbow starts bent and the athlete pushes the arm forwards and slightly upwards as far as possible.

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Scapular Squeeze Shoulder Exercise

In a sitting position with the elbows by the side the athlete squeezes the shoulder blades together, holding for 5-10 seconds. This strengthens the rhomboids and middle trapezius.

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Seated Push Up Shoulder Exercise

The seated push up exercise works the shoulders and chest. The athlete sits with their hands by their sides, pushing down to lift the hips from the couch. The elbows must be fully extended before the athlete returns to the seated position.

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Serratus Punch

The Serratus Punch exercise is designed to strengthen the shoulder blade protractors such as Serratus Anterior. The athlete lies on their back with the arms pointing up, elbows straight and a medicine ball held between the hands.

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Shoulder Step Ups

This late stage shoulder exercise works the front of the shoulders as well as the proprioception or coordination of the joint. The athlete steps up and down on a step.

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Standing 90/90 External Rotation

This external rotation exercise helps to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles. The resistance band is anchored in front and the other end is held in the hand, with the arm raised. The athlete rotates the arm so that the fist points upwards.

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Standing 90/90 Internal Rotation

This exercise uses a resistance band to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and scapular muscles. The athlete rotates the arm so that the forearm moves forwards, to a horizontal position. Later supporting hand can be removed.

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Standing Chest Press Shoulder Exercise

This exercise strengthens the serratus anterior and chest muscles and increases shoulder flexibility. Athlete anchors the elastic band at chest level and holds one end in each hand. Athlete pushes straight forwards until the elbows are straight.

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Superior Capsule Stretch

To stretch the top of the shoulder a rolled up towel can be placed between the bent elbow and the body. The other hand pulls the elbow inwards. The towel acts as a level to stretch the top of the shoulder capsule.

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Tricep Extension with Band

The tricep extension shoulder exercise works the Triceps Brachii muscle. The athlete straightens both arms above the head keeping the elbows pointed upwards and the forearms lowered until a stretch is felt.

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Wood Chops shoulder exercise

The wood chop shoulder exercise improves the upper body strength and explosive strength.

Proprioception exercises

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Ball Catches

The Ball catch shoulder exercise requires a partner to help. It works the shoulder blade stabilizing muscles and the core muscles of the trunk. The athlete catches the ball in one hand, returns it so it can be thrown back to the opposite arm.

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Upper Extremity Ball Stabilization

This exercise strengthens the scapular stabilizers and the triceps. The athlete lies on a massage table and balances with one hand on a large swiss / gym ball. Increase difficulty by moving the arm in a circular motion.

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Wobble Board for Shoulders

Wobble board exercises for shoulder stability. Various exercises can be done by placing the weight through the arms on a wobble balance board. Similar to ankle exercises this improves the proprioception and coordination of the shoulder.

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Swiss Ball Stabilization

This exercise challenges shoulder stability and works the muscles of the upper body through stabilizing the shoulder. The athlete positions themselves on the ball at the hips and places the hands on the wobble board.

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151 Drill

The 151 drills exercise works the scapular, triceps and core stabilizers. The athlete goes on hands and knees. Whilst shifting the weight from side to side the athlete slaps the ball from one hand to the other in quick succession.