Safe shoulder exercises



by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit


From the American Physical Therapy Association



Regular safe shoulder exercises will help restore normal shoulder motion and flexibility and allow return to work and recreational activities.

Do not perform these exercises before checking with your physical therapist or physician

Your physical therapist may recommend that you exercise from 10 to 15 minutes 2 or 3 times a day. They may suggest some of the following exercises.

Pendulum, Circular - Bend forward 90 degrees at the waist, using a table for support. Rock the body in a circular pattern to move arm clockwise 10 times, then counterclockwise 10 times. Do 3 sessions a day.

Shoulder Flexion (Assistive) - Clasp hands together and lift arms above head. This can be done lying down or sitting. Keep elbows as straight as possible. Repeat 10 to 20 times. Do 3 sessions a day.

Supported Shoulder Rotation - Keep the elbow in place and shoulder blades down and together. Slide forearm back and forth. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sessions a day.

Walk Up Exercise (Active) - With the elbow straight, use fingers to "crawl" up a wall or door frame as far as possible. Hold 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Do 3 sessions a day.

Shoulder Internal Rotation (Active) - Bring the hand behind the back and across to the opposite side. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sessions a day.

Shoulder Flexion (Active) - Raise the arm to point to the ceiling, keeping elbows straight. Hold 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Do 3 sessions a day.

Shoulder Abduction (Active) - Raise the arm out to the side, elbow straight and palm downward. Do not shrug shoulder or tilt trunk. Hold 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Do 3 sessions a day.

Shoulder Extension (Isometric) - Stand with your back against the wall and your arms straight at your sides. Keeping your elbows straight, push your arms back into the wall. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

Shoulder External Rotation (Isometric) - Stand with the involved side of your body against a wall. Bend your elbow 90 degrees. Push your arm into the wall. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

Shoulder Internal Rotation (Isometric) - Stand at a corner of a wall or in a door frame. Place the involved arm against the wall around the corner, bending your elbow 90 degrees. Push your arm into the wall. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

Shoulder Internal Rotation - Keep elbow bent at 90 degrees. Holding a light weight,and raise the hand toward the stomach. Slowly return. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sessions a day.

Shoulder External Rotation - Keep elbow bent at 90 degrees at side. Holding a light weight, raise the hand away from the stomach. Slowly return. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sessions a day.

Shoulder Adduction (Isometric) - Press upper arm against a small pillow alongside your body. Hold 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sessions a day.

Shoulder Abduction (Isometric) - Resist upward motion to the side, push the arm against the back of chair. Hold 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sessions a day.

If you are relatively fit and do not have significant shoulder problems and would like to strengthen your shoulders, then dumbbell exercises may be right for you.

• Dumbbell exercises incorporate stabilizing muscles that help you develop a much more balanced posture and physique.
• Done correctly, dumbbell exercises are safe.
• Dumbbell exercises allow you to train with the most natural movement patterns.
You can put together a great circuit training program with nothing other than dumbbell exercises, improving your cardiovascular fitness as well as your strength.


Dumbbell exercises allow you to build highly specific sports fitness programs. Because dumbbell exercises are so dynamic and flexible you can use them to closely match the movement patterns in your sport.

Dumbbell exercises are extremely safe if you perform them correctly.


1. Always warm up before dumbbell exercises.

Perform 5-10 minutes of light aerobic exercise followed by stretching exercises to all major muscle groups.

2. Perform each of the dumbbell exercises with a light weight to start. Technique is critical. You will start to get diminished returns from dumbbell exercises if you keep increasing the weight without maintaining quality.

3. Have someone spot you at all times.

4. Avoid dropping the weights on the floor.

As you perform dumbbell exercises your muscles are under tremendous tension. Abruptly releasing the tension by letting go of the weights is a great way to get injured!

Seated Shoulder Press

Works all 3 heads of the deltoid (shoulder) muscle.

1. Sit upright on the end of the bench with the dumbbells extended directly above your head. Make sure your back is not rounded. Adjust the bench so it forms an upright chair to support your back if necessary.
2. Lower the weights slowly and under control to your shoulders.
3. When your arms are bent to 90 degrees, press the dumbbells back up without locking your elbows and repeat.


Lateral Raises

1. Stand upright, knees slightly bent and shoulder width apart, holding the dumbbells at your sides.
2. Bend your elbows slightly and raise the dumbbells out to the side. Keep your elbows slightly bent as you do this.
3. When your arms are parallel to the floor, slowly lower the weights back down and repeat.
4. If you catch yourself arching your back, dipping your knees or bringing your shoulders back use a lighter weight.


Reverse Butterflies

Works the posterior (rear) deltoid. The exercise is performed as its name suggests. It's simply a chest butterfly in reverse.

1. Sit on the edge of a bench, feet flat on the floor and knees bent at right angles. Bend right over so your chest is almost resting on your thighs.
2. Hold 2 dumbbells next to your feet and bend your arms slightly. Open your arms out in an arc keeping your elbows bent.
3. When your arms are parallel to the floor slowly lower the weights back to the ground with the same motion.
4. You can and should only use a light weight for this exercise.


Front Raises

Isolates the anterior (front) deltoids.


1. Stand upright, knees slightly bent and shoulder width apart. Hold the dumbbells at against your thighs. Your palms should be towards your body.
2. Starting with your weaker side and keeping your arm straight, raise the weight directly in front of you.
3. When your arm is parallel to the ground lower the weight slowly back to the starting position. Repeat with the other arm.
4. Avoid the tendency to arch your lower back on the last few repetitions. You will be able to handle more weight on the concentric phase (lifting the weight up) of this exercise. Make sure you can lower (eccentric phase) the dumbbell under control before you progress to a higher weight





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