Movements that you make with your shoulder are affected by 15 muscles and eight ligaments. When you want to rehabilitate (rehab) a shoulder injury, you need to concentrate not only on strength but on balance and flexibility.
Below are seven (7) exercises for military personnel to help rehab those shoulder injuries and get them back in action safely.
You can do these exercises with your own body weight or you can use resistance bands. Using resistance bands will help increase your flexibility and balance. Bands also help you stay more mindful during exercise, as they allow you to concentrate on the correct form and positioning rather than just doing the movement.
Before performing any of the following exercises, it may be advisable to consult with an appropriately qualified professional (e.g. medical doctor or physiotherapist). If you are in pain when performing an exercise stop immediately and consult with a medical/healthcare professional.
1. Doorway Stretch
- Stand in a doorway.
- Grasp either side with your hands at or just below shoulder height.
- Move one foot through the door and lean forward until you feel a slight stretch behind your shoulder blades.
- Keep your back straight, and do not ‘overstretch’.
2. Reverse Fly
- Stand with both feet hip-distance apart and a light weight in each hand.
- Keeping your back straight, lean forward slightly, bending from the waist.
- Starting with your arms straight towards the floor, raise both arms up and out to the side.
- Do not lock your elbows – keep them slightly bent.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you raise your arms.
- You want to finish with your arms out on either side of you to be almost at shoulder height.
- Bring your arms back down.
- That is one repetition (reps).
- Complete one set of 5-10 reps.
- Complete three-four sets.
3. Wall Angels
- Stand against a wall, making sure your head, hands, and elbows are touching the wall.
- You will keep these points of contact throughout the exercise.
- Slowly slide your hands up the wall as if you were doing a snow angel, but against the wall.
- Your hands should come up to above your shoulders.
- Then slowly slide your hands back down.
Perform this exercise 10-15 times (or less if you get tired). Remember, if you feel any pain, stop!
4. Wall Push-ups/Press-ups
- Stand with the wall facing you and your hands in a position to do a push-up.
- The more distance between your feet and the wall, the more resistance there will be, so experiment with what feels best for you.
- Gently do push-ups against the wall, making sure that your elbows stay as close to your body as possible.
- Try to remain conscious of your shoulder blades and your upper back as you move.
Build up to three sets of 10 reps each, and move to the floor when you feel stronger.
5. Lawnmower Pull
If using a resistance band, you will want a longer resistance band for this exercise.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Put the band underneath the middle of the foot that is opposite your (injured) shoulder.
- Hold the other end of the band in your hand on the injured/opposite side.
- The resistance band should be diagonal across the front of your body.
- Bend slightly from the waist and pull the band up and across, as if you were starting up a lawnmower very slowly.
- Straighten up to a standing position as you do this.
Aim to perform three sets of 10 reps each.
6. Side-Lying External Rotation
- Lying on the non-injured side, grasp a light weight in your injured side’s hand.
- Bend that elbow at 90 degrees, resting your elbow on your side.
- Gently and slowly raise your hand with the weight, keeping your elbow bent and close to your body.
- Pause at the top, then come back to start (your forearm should be resting against your abdomen).
Perform three sets of 10 reps each, three times per day. Once it gets more comfortable, you can increase the number of reps to 20.
7. Pull-Down Rows
- Kneel on the ground with one foot on the floor.
- Have the knee raised that is opposite your injured shoulder (if right shoulder then left knee should be raised).
- Tie or loop a long resistance band tied around a pole or another stationary object above your head.
- Grasping the end of the resistance band in the hand of your injured side with your arm straight, pull down.
- You want to pull your hand towards the side of your body.
- Your elbow should come in to touch your side.
- Make sure your back remains straight and that your shoulders are (held) back as you do this exercise.
- Keep your hips square, and do not twist your body as you move.
- Return the arm to the starting position, and repeat.
- Perform three sets of 10 reps each.
Remember, consult your medical/healthcare professional before you begin, and start slowly with these exercises.