Functional Shoulder Exercises

Functional exercises are sports specific exercises which more closely relate to day to day activities or sports specific technique. They bridge the gap between basic rehabilitation to normal shoulder function and the more specific demands of sports such as racket sports or throwing events.

Ball Catches

The Ball catch shoulder exercise on the hands and knees requires a partner.

Aim:

  • To improve general scapular and core stabilization.

Technique:

  • This exercise requires a partner to throw the ball towards one of the athlete's hands.
  • The athlete catches the ball and throws it back.
  • The partner catches the ball and throws it to the athlete's other hand.
  • The ball is always thrown in an under arm motion.

Muscles worked:

  • Scapular stabilizers
  • core stabilizers

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The chest pass

This shoulder exercise improves explosive strength of the upper body.

Aim:

  • To strengthen the scapular stabilizers, pectorals, wrist flexors and triceps.
  • To improve explosive strength of the upper body.

Technique:

  • The athlete stands one meter from a rebound net or partner and forcefully throws a medicine ball from chest height with both hands.
  • They then catch the rebound and immediately throw it again.

Muscles worked:

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Hands Up Robbery

This shoulder exercise strengthens the lower trapezius.

  • Strengthen lower trapezius

Technique

  • Athlete stands with hands by their sides. Then bend the elbows and bring the hands up so the palms face forwards, whilst squeezing the shoulder blades together

Muscles worked:

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Diagonal Plane Exercises

These exercises use a resistance band to strengthen the shoulder and arm muscles, especially the rotator cuff, chest and upper back.

Aim:

  • This exercise effectively works muscles in this back, upper arm and shoulder.

Technique:

  • 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 throughout the exercise.

Muscles worked:

  • These exercises work the chest muscles, upper back muscles, shoulder muscles and arm muscles.

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Hand Walking on Treadmill / Stool

Aim:

  • Distal movement exercises require control, strength and, in this case, shoulder stability.

Technique:

  • To start with the athlete is positioned with the knees on the floor and hands on the belt.
  • This exercise can also be performed using a stool
  • Starting the machine at a very slow speed, the athlete walks the hands forward.
  • This can be progressed by increasing the speed and duration of exercise, as well as performing the exercise with the feet on the floor, rather than the knees.

Muscles worked:

  • This exercise aids muscle control, endurance and co-ordination.

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Lat Pull Down With Band

This lat pull down shoulder exercise uses a resistance band to improve latissimus dorsi muscle strength.

Aim:

  • To increase upper body strength

Techniques:

  • The band is anchored in the centre to a high point and the ends held in each hand.
  • The athlete starts with the arms straight, above and in front of the head.They then pull the arms back, bending the elbows until the hands are in front of the chest.

Muscles worked:

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Standing Chest Press Shoulder Exercise

Aim:

  • To strengthen serratus anterior and increase shoulder flexibility

Technique

  • Athlete anchors the elastic band at chest level and holds one end in each hand.
  • Starting with the arms raised to chest level and elbows bent, the athlete pushes straight forwards until the elbows are straight.

Muscles worked:

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Scapular Squeeze

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.

Aim:

  • 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.

Technique:

  • The athlete squeezes the shoulder blades or scapulae together while ensuring the elbows are kept down at the sides.
  • Hold for 5 - 10 seconds and relax, repeat 5 - 10 times.

Muscles worked:

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Push-Up Against Wall

The Push-up performed against a wall strengthens the chest muscles and is a 'plus' is added, the scapula muscles can also be activated.

Aim:

  • To Strengthen the chest and serratus anterior.

Technique:

  • The athlete stands in front of a wall in the push up position with the hands shoulder width apart.
  • The feet are positioned far enough away from the wall to cause the athlete to lean in.
  • Keeping the hands on the wall at all times, the athlete pushes the body away from the hands.
  • When the arms are straight, the 'plus' is performed by protracting the shoulder blades and rounding the back.
  • Bend the elbows to return to the start position and repeat.

Muscles worked:

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Overhead Toss

Aim:

  • To increase the strength of the trunk and shoulders.
  • To enhance shoulder co-ordination.

Technique:

  • Lying on the floor the athlete throws the ball overhead to the therapist and simultaneously moves into a sit-up position.
  • The therapist throws the ball back, behind the athletes head so that the athlete must reach overhead to catch the ball.

Muscles worked:

  • The muscles of the upper extremity.

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Abduction In The Scapular Plane

This exercise works the anterior Deltoid and Supraspinatus muscles.

Aim:

  • Strengthens the Supraspinatus and Deltoid.

Technique:

  • The athlete starts with a weight in the hand and the arm at a 45 degree angle to the body as shown.
  • The arm is lifted above the head, keeping the elbow straight.

Muscles worked:

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Scapula Protraction

This scapula protraction exercise works the Serratus Anterior muscle.

Aim:

  • Strengthens the serratus anterior

Technique:

  • 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, ensuring to extend through the shoulder blade.

Muscles worked:

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Reverse Fly

This exercise using resistance band works the middle trapezius and rhomboids at the back of the shoulder.

Aim:

  • To strengthen middle trapezius and rhomboids

Technique

  • Athlete holds the resistance band or pulley slightly below shoulder level and pulls towards chest by pulling arms backwards
  • Keep your back straight and pull elastic band in a controlled manner and hold shoulder blades for 1-2 seconds and repeat.

Muscles worked:

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Seated Medicine Ball Rotation

The medicine ball rotation shoulder exercise involves catching and throwing a ball using internal shoulder rotation to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.

Aim:

  • To increase the explosive internal rotation strength.

Techniques:

  • Start in a seated position, with the arm raised to 90 degrees and elbow bent
  • The athlete catches the ball as thrown by the therapist, and immediately throws the ball back, maintaining the elevated arm position.

Muscles worked:

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 Lateral Rotation in Side Lying

The Lateral Rotation side lying exercise works the glenohumeral joint, inparticular the rotator cuff muscles.

Aim:

  • Strengthens the teres minor, infraspinatus and the posterior deltoid.

Technique:

  • In a side-lying position as shown and with the arm supported and elbow bent to a right angle, the athlete lifts the weight upwards, keeping the upper arm resting against the body.

Muscles worked:

Play video >>


Seated Row With Band

The seated row works the rhomboids and middle trapezius using a resistance band.

Aim:

  • Strengthens the rhomboids and middle trapezius.

Technique:

  • The athlete sits on the floor with the band looped around the feet, crossed in front and one end in each hand.
  • Starting with the arms straight, they pull the arms back, bending the elbows, until the hands are level with the chest.

Muscles worked:

Play video >>


Scapula Pull Down

This exercise strengthens the scapular depressors using a resistance band.

Aim:

  • Strengthens the scapular depressors

Technique:

  • Keep the shoulder and elbow joints in their start positions throughout the exercise.
  • The athlete depresses the scapula down the back as far as possible and returns to the starting position.

Muscles worked:

Play video >>


Internal Rotation with Band

This exercise strengthen the rotator cuff muscles which stabilise the shoulder joint. Working these muscles is important after shoulder injuries, especially dislocations and impingement syndromes.

Teaching Points

  • Start with the band attached to a fixed point to your side.
  • Hold other end of the band in one hand, with the elbow bent and upper arm by your side.
  • Keeping the elbow by your side, move your hand towards your stomach as far as is comfortable.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.

Muscles Worked

Related Injuries


Extension in prone with dumbell

Shoulder extension in a prone lying position (on the front) to strengthen the posterior shoulder muscles.

Aim:

  • To strengthen the downward rotators and extensors of the scapula and shoulder joint.

Technique:

  • The athlete lies on the table with the shoulder over the edge.
  • Keeping the scapula depressed the athlete moves the arm and weight into full hyperextension at the shoulder.

Muscles worked:


Bilateral Extension

The scapula upwards rotation works the scapula rotators.

Aim:

  • Strengthens the downward rotators of the scapula.

Technique:

  • With a weight in the hand and thumb facing forwards, the athlete raises the arm, at a 45 degree angle to the body.
  • The arm is lifted as high as position, ensuring the shoulders are not shrugged upwards, before slowly returning to the starting position.

Muscles worked:

  • Scapular rotators.

Bent Over Row

The bent over row exercise using a resistance band works the upper and mid back muscles.

Technique:

  • 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.

Muscles worked:


Bilateral Extension

Bilateral extension using a resistance band to strengthen the scapula muscles.

Aim:

  • The aim of this shoulder exercise is to Increase mobility and strengthen downward rotators and extensors of the scapula

Technique:

  • Athlete holds both ends of a band at hip height with the elbows straight and palms facing inwards.
  • Starting just in front of the body, pull the arms backwards, keeping the elbows straight and squeezing the shoulder blades together and down.

Muscles worked:


External Rotation Retraction

This exercise strengthens the rhomboids and middle trapezius. A resistance band is required for this exercise.



Aim:

  • To strengthen rhomboids and middle trapezius

Technique:

  • With the arms by the sides and the elbows bent, the althlete holds a resistance or elastic band between their hands with the palms facing up.
  • Move the hands apart to rotate the shoulders, whilst squeezing the shoulder blades together and down the back. Hold the end position for 2 seconds.
  • Complete 3 sets consisting of 8-12 reps

Muscles worked:


Front Raise

This front raise requires a resistance band and is designed to strengthen the front of the shoulder.

Aim:

  • To strengthen the front of the shoulder

Technique:

  • Athlete stands with legs shoulder width apart, placing one end of the elastic band under one foot
  • Change foot position to adjust resistance holding the other end of the band with the hand
  • Keeping your elbows straight, raise your arm in front of your torso until your arm raises just above shoulder height

Muscles worked:


Lateral Rotation Front Lying

Lateral (external) rotation exercises strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.

Aim:

  • To strengthen the teres minor, infraspinatus and posterior deltoid.

Technique:

  • Laying on their front (prone) with the arm out to the side and elbow bent as shown, the athlete rotates the shoulder to lift the weight towards the ceiling as far as is comfortable.

Muscles worked:


Lateral Rotation in Standing

Shoulder exercise - Lateral rotation in standing using a resistance band. Also known as the External Rotation in standing.

Aim:

  • To strengthen the teres minor, infraspinatus and posterior deltoid.
  • This is a very common shoulder rehabilitation exercise and an easy one to get started with.

Techniques:

  • The athlete stands holding the band with the elbow abducted in 90 degrees.
  • They rotate the shoulder outwards as far as is comfortable and return to the centre.
  • Exercise must be done under control and pain free.

Muscles worked:


Lateral Rotation Band Abduction

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

Aim:

  • Strengthens the rotator cuff and scapular muscles.

Technique:

  • The athlete sits with the upper arm supported and elbow bent to a right angle as shown. The arm is rotated so that the fist points to the ceiling.

Progression:

  • This can be made more challenging by removing the support of the couch.

Muscles worked:


Lateral rotation in abduction

this exercise uses a resistance band and is also known as the External Rotation in standing.

Aim:

  • To strengthen the teres minor, infraspinatus and posterior deltoid.

Techniques:

  • The athlete stands holding the band with the elbow abducted in 90 degrees.
  • The athlete elevates the arm, ensuring the elbow is also elevated.
  • The shoulder is maintained at 90 degree abduction without horizontal adduction or abduction.

Muscles worked:


Seated Push Up

The seated push up exercise works on the scapulothoraic body segment.

Aim:

  • Strengthens the pectoralis minor, lower trapezius and the latissimus dorsi.

Technique:

  • The athlete sits with their hands by their sides, pushing down to lift the hips from the couch (or chair).
  • The elbows must be fully extended before the athlete returns to the seated position.

Muscles worked: