What exercise & rehab should you really be doing help your Shoulder?

What exercise & rehab should you really be doing help your Shoulder?

Frustrated or unsure what you need to be doing to help your shoulder?

First of all the shoulder is a complicated joint and also relies on its surrounding ‘friends’ – the neck, thoracic spine and scapula (shoulder blade), so don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel you aren’t progressing.  This blog aims to facilitate your exercises and rehab, to increase your range of motion, function and therefore reduce pain.

So who are these exercises for?

Part one is aimed at those at the early/mid stages of rehab, but is also useful for anyone wanting to improve posture, performance and quality of movement, whether it be in the gym or whilst doing your sport.  If you can activate or ‘wake up’ your shoulder girdle prior to exercise, you are more likely to get better movement and control – also very important and may be the part you are missing in your gym programme if certain movements give you pain.

So if you are getting pain at the gym – it is not going to help your shoulder to lift heavy weights, if your stability or your ‘scaffold’ muscles, aka the rotator cuff can’t maintain a good position.  Makes sense right?  These exercise are also ideal for those who have had a shoulder dislocation, A/C joint injury, fracture or muscle strain.  Also perfect for those who sit bent over in front of  computer who are prone to postural related injuries (which are VERY common).


So what is it you need to include to maximise your shoulder rehab programme?

Don’t worry to much about the why, but trust me on these few things helping with the overall picture of getting your shoulder functioning better.  In some way or another exercises should include compression, or weight bearing, thoracic (mid spine) movement and some facilitation into external rotation to help engage the cuff .  What this means to you is weight bearing through the hands or elbow, moving and loosening off your spine and sometimes using a theraband, or turning your hands slightly outwards, engaging the posterior cuff to enhance firing up the cuff muscles.  Because the cuff are relatively small muscles that continually  provide the stability & good positioning to your shoulder, they benefit from low weight controlled movements – not your bigger compound movements – so don’t just jump straight into bench press or push ups to get strong ok?


Other Tips to help your shoulder

Making a fist or holding a light weight is a great, simple way for your brain to automatically connect to your shoulder muscles, telling them to switch on – clever hey? So that is a great start to get things engaging.

The other is to start combining lower body movement with your shoulder movement – research suggests that in a movement such as an overhead through, at least 50% – 80% of overall shoulder strength comes from the lower limb and trunk.  The body is also tuned to work as a ‘whole’ unit, so combining movements is key to the overall outcome of your shoulder.



Starting off with mobilisation, then more into activation and strength.  If you have not got a gym ball, a table with a cloth works well!



EXERCISE 1: Use either a gym ball or a cloth on a table.  Start with activation and good positioning of the shoulder joint and scapula.  You can use your fingers to facilitate the shoulder going slightly back and being ‘central’ in the socket.  Think to pull the shoulder blade down and in.  Maintain this while sliding the ball back and forth.  Progress by adding some spinal movement forwards and back, trying to maintain a neutral spine. Repeat x 12



EXERCISE 2: Abduction.  Typically one of the more difficult movements to get back.  As above ‘set’ your shoulder into a good position.  Start small range then build up to include spinal movement. Repeat x12



EXERCISE 3: Again a high table & cloth works well if you haven’t got a gym ball.  Try push the ball away from you.  Make sure to engage your core and allowing some thoracic (mid spine) extension, but try and keep a relatively neutral lumbar spine. Repeat x6-12.



EXERCISE 4: Shoulder flexion and bridge.  If you have a theraband (TB) then wrap it around your outer wrists- keep thumbs towards you and fingers up to the ceiling.  If not you can use a broom stick or similar, failing that use your good arm to help the ‘bad’ arm.  As you squeeze through your gluts to a bridge, simultaneously take the arms over head.  Repeat x 8-15 reps.



EXERCISE 6: Thoracic rotation & lateral flexion.  You can use anything for this- even clasp your hands together.  Try and keep your core engaged so that your pelvis faces forward.  Twist side-side and then rotate x 1 min.  Repeat x2-3 .



EXERCISE 7:  kneeling walk outs: A TB really optimises this exercise – wrap it around outsides of wrists – try maintain hands at ’10 to 2′ position on a ‘clock’.  Maintain your core and neutral spine, walk hands in and out.  30secs x3-5.



EXERCISE 8: Push step backs.  Push the ball away from your (shoulder protraction)  as you drive and step one leg backwards.  Try and feel that your shoulder blades are swimming around the outsides of your rib cage.  Alternate legs & repeat x20



EXERCISE 9:  Roll outs.  This is quite a challenge, especially for the core.  Start with very small range and build up.  If you can keep the TB around the outer wrists this is going to help engage the posterior cuff.  Try 5-10reps.



EXERCISE 10: Wall walks.  Again better if you have got the TB – you guessed it, to wrap around the outside of your wrists.  Hands at ’10 to 2′.  Try keep shoulder blades down the back and engaged as you walk the hands up and down.  Try 30-60 secs x3


DISCLAIMER: These exercises are not prescriptive and its always best to get advice specific to you.  This is just a snippet of a complete shoulder rehab program.  If you want more advice on your shoulder or any other injuries, please get in touch 🙂

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