Many of the most common injuries in joints in our body involve the shoulder-joint.
People who injure their shoulder-joint are either weight training with too much weight, or not training at all and suffer from arthritis.
Today’s exercises can be used as a shoulder warm up before lifting weights and as rehabilitation exercises if you are suffering from a shoulder injury or arthritis. Many of these exercises don’t require much equipment, though a resistance band comes in handy, as well as a very light hand-weight. If you don’t have dumbbells, you can use water bottles and do these exercises at home. Also, a broom stick is necessary for some of these exercises as well.
The purpose of these exercises is to increase blood flow to the muscles surrounding the shoulder-joint, which will speed up the healing process after an injury and help you engage the right muscles in your workout.
Stretch and Mobilize
- Exercise Tip: While extending the broomstick/pole backwards, only go as far as your shoulder mobility allows. The moment you experience pain or feel uncomfortable, stop the movement.
Pole/Broomstick isometric pulldown
- Exercise Tip: This exercise is one of the best isometric strengthening exercise for the shoulders and lats (big back muscle). Holding the broomstick above your head, pretend as if you want to pull it apart with your hands, while simultaneously pretending to pull the broomstick down. There will be no visible movement here, just muscle contraction (aka isometric). Hold this contraction for 30 seconds, then release and rest and repeat again for 5-10 times. Your muscles should be shaking at the end!
- Exercise Tip: Really try to squeeze your shoulder blades together and push your chest out. Also, do not hyperextend your lower back by tilting your pelvis forward and contracting your abdominals and glutes.
Shoulder warm up exercises
Wall standing shoulder press
- Exercise Tip: When standing against the wall, your body is forced to use the shoulder muscles to perform this exercise. It cannot activate other muscles to compensate. Press your body against the wall, contract your abdominal muscles and glutes. Pull your shoulder blades back and down and then push up and pull down while feeling your entire upper back and shoulder muscles working.
Face to the Wall Scapular Retraction/ or lying on a bench
- Exercise Tip: This exercise can be performed with your face against the wall (body pressing against it) or lying on a bench or on the ground. I prefer the version on the wall because many people tend to hyperextend the lower back while lying on the ground. Also, not everyone has a bench at home. Press your abdominals and pelvis into the ground/wall and contract them to protect your lower back. Keep your neck in a neutral position, don’t look up. By using the upper back muscles, pull your arms back, keeping them close to your sides, as if you had a purse in your armpit. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and then release.
External Rotation with Band
- Exercise Tip: The towel in your armpit will help you to keep your elbows close to your sides. This step is crucial to activate the rotator cuffs surrounding the shoulder-joint. If you don’t have a pole to secure the band, you can hold the band in both hands and alternate left and right arm. While pushing the band outwards, really squeeze the outer part of your shoulder muscles and upper back.
Scarecrows with light weight/Bodyweight
- Exercise Tip: One of the best exercises to warm up the shoulder-joint (in my opinion). This can be performed with bodyweight or very light weight. You will feel the burn very quickly. Make sure to contract your whole body and really squeeze the upper back and shoulder blades together. Do not shrug your shoulders up, push them down at all times.
Internal Rotation with Band
- Exercise Tip: The opposite movement to the external rotation. We need to strengthen/activate all muscles surrounding the shoulder-joint. Here you will pull the band to your body. Again, press your elbows against your body and only move from the shoulder-joint.
Band Pulldown unilateral
- Exercise Tip: A very effective shoulder warm-up and latissimus dorsi activation exercise. The latissimus dorsi is the muscle that pulls your shoulder blades down. Hold the band over your head and pull one end down with one arm and towards your body. Squeeze the upper back muscles. You should feel this exercise across your back, especially right under your arm pit.
Seated Row (light Band)
- Exercise Tip: Range of motion is crucial for this exercise. Pull your arms back as far as you can and squeeze your shoulder blades. Keep your elbows close to your sides at all times and your core contracted.
Lateral Rotation lying
- Exercise Tip: A basic shoulder rehabilitation exercise. This time you are not using a band, but a very light weight (water bottles are sufficient as well). Keep your elbows pinned to your sides and only move from the shoulder-joint. Squeeze the upper back muscles.
Band Lateral Raises
- Exercise Tip: Use a light band for this. You should only use your shoulder muscles to lift the band. Don’t extend over your head, stop at shoulder height. Also, slightly pull the band backward to activate the rear deltoid muscle.
One arm Reverse Fly
- Exercise Tip: One of the best activators and strengthening exercises for the rear deltoid muscles. If you are advanced, you can perform this exercise on your toes. It will be very challenging for your core and glutes as well. While lifting the weight to the sight, make sure to use the back of your shoulders and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keep your core contracted the whole time.
There are many more exercises for shoulder rehabilitation but from my personal experience, these exercises help to strengthen the rear deltoid muscle (back of your shoulder), which pulls your shoulder blades back and down. In most cases, weak rear deltoid muscles lead to shoulder joint injuries and arthritis and pulling the shoulder blades back “frees” the joint and improves blood flow and the healing process.
If you are not injured, you don’t have to perform all exercises before working the shoulders. I typically choose about 3 exercises and perform them twice for 20 repetitions. Also, if you have issues activating the right muscles, you may want to spend more time warming up than someone who has already built a strong mind-muscle connection.
Let me know if you have any questions!
Are you properly warming up your shoulders? Which are your favorite exercises?
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