Healthy Shoulders - Your At-Home Strengthening and Stabilization Routine
Updated: Sep 19
Why should I have a shoulder strengthening routine?
We use our shoulders almost constantly to perform daily tasks such as lifting, carrying, driving, washing our hair, walking our dogs, and so much more. Therefore, it is important to keep this joint as stable and healthy as possible! By having a shoulder strengthening routine, you can help to prevent a shoulder injury and/or re-stabilize the joint after an injury.
Dr. Campbell may have already given you at-home stretching and strengthening exercises for your shoulder(s). The following exercises are here to give you a starting point in your shoulder stabilization routine, or to supplement what you are already doing. For maximum results, it is recommended to perform these exercises once a day (or as prescribed).
Shoulder Instability: What causes it? What are the signs?
Shoulder instability is a common ailment in the athletic population, as well as in the general public. Your shoulder can become unstable from a major injury, such as a tackle in a football game, or from chronic overuse.
Some common chronic overuse modes of injury include:
- Using an eliptical cardio machine too vigorously or frequently.
- Driving with improper posture too frequently.
- Constantly carrying (i.e. new mom carrying her baby or the car seat).
When the muscles surrounding your shoulder joint aren’t strong enough to perform your activities, the muscles start to become injured. Shoulder instability is the result. The most common signs of shoulder instability are feeling clunks or catching in the shoulder joint, and pain surrounding the shoulder joint after exercise.
What if these exercises cause me pain?
You may experience some discomfort or soreness after performing these exercises. This is typically caused by your muscles adjusting and rebuilding in response to their increased demand. This soreness is completely normal and may last for up to two days after performing the exercises. To decrease this discomfort, you may want to apply a cold pack to the area for 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, and repeat as desired. If you are experiencing pain that is more than a typical work-out discomfort, please discontinue these exercises and consult your doctor.
The Daily Shoulder
1. Rhomboid Stabilization
Bring your elbow to your side, and bend your arm to 90 degrees. Bring that same side shoulder blade to the midline of your back and down as far as possible. It should look like you are drawing a candy cane on your back using your shoulder blade. Now hold this position (down and midline) for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
You can make this more difficult by holding a can of soup (i.e. Campbell’s soup) in your hand. Only add a can of soup once you can perform the motion without letting your shoulder blade lift away from the midline for the entire 30 seconds.
2. Straight Arm Push-Ups
Hold yourself in plank/push-up position with your arms straight and your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Keeping your arms straight and your back flat (no belly dipping) for the entire time you are performing this exercise. Raise your upper back toward the ceiling by pushing down through your shoulders. Your spine should now be 1-2 inches higher than your shoulders. Slowly lower your upper body back down so that it is level with your shoulders. Repeat this 10 times.
To make this exercise more difficult, you can try it with one shoulder at a time by tucking one arm into your stomach.
3. Modified Superman
Lying on your stomach, bring your arms straight out over your head. Keeping your arms straight, slowly raise one arm with your hand turned out. Then slowly bring your arm back down to the floor. Raise and lower that same arm with your hand turned in. Then perform the movement with your other arm. Repeat this 10 times on each side.
You can make this more difficult by holding your arm up for 10 seconds before lowering it down.
You can make this even more difficult by adding in straight leg raises, raising the leg opposite to the raised arm and alternating along with your arm movements (looks like superman flying).
4. Side lying arm rotations
Laying on your side, bring your top arm to 90 degrees at the elbow, and keep this elbow at your side for the entire exercise. Slowly rotate your arm/hand down, keeping your elbow at 90 degrees, so that your hand goes in towards your belly button. Then bring your hand up by rotating your arm out, as far as your body will let you (hand up in the air, elbow remains by your side). Hold your hand up at it’s highest position for 10 seconds. Perform this motion 10 times. Lay on your opposite side and repeat with your other arm.
You can make this exercise more difficult by placing a soup can in your hand.
5. Wall Snow Angels
Standing with your back against a wall, bend your arms to 90 degrees and rotate your arms out so that the back of your hands are touching the wall on either side of you. Your shoulder blades, elbows, and wrists should remain against the wall. Raise your arms up over your head, while keeping contact between the backs of your hands and the wall. Raise them as high as your body will allow. Slowly bring them back down following the same motion until your elbows are touching your sides. This should look like a snow angel on the wall. Repeat this 20 times.
There are many more exercises that can help to stabilize the shoulder joint. I hope that you have found the ones I chose helpful in achieving a stable shoulder.
Author: Casey Campbell BSc., D.C.