Exercises for the shoulders

Introduction

These exercises are helpful for problems and pain affecting the shoulders.

Remember to drink water while you're exercising and make sure you have plenty of space around you to avoid injury.

It's a good idea to start slowly and build up gradually if you're new to exercise. For more information and tips on getting started, see our About exercise page.

Get advice and support from a healthcare professional or fitness instructor if you have any concerns about starting a new exercise plan.

Shoulder posture check

Before starting any exercise make a habit of checking your posture. Standing sideways on, look in a mirror and gently slide your shoulders up and back.

Your head and neck should be relaxed and your chest should stand out slightly, as though you are taking a deep breath. You should also feel a little taller. This is called scapula setting and is the starting point for every exercise.

Arm lifts (standing)

Place your hands behind your head so your elbows are pointing to the sides and pressed back as far as you can. Hold for five seconds.

Then place your hands behind your back, again keeping your elbows pointing out and pressed back as far as you can. Hold for five seconds.

Do each movement five times.

Arm stretch (standing)

Stand with your arms relaxed at your sides. Raise your arms as far as is comfortable and hold for 5-10 seconds. When your arms are raised, your palms should be facing each other. Lower and repeat five times.

You can do this exercise by raising your arms either in front of you or to the sides. Doing some of each will stretch more muscles.

Arm stretch (lying)

Lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Raise your arms overhead as far as is comfortable, with your palms facing each other. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Return your arms to your sides and repeat five times.

Shoulder circle

Stand with one hand resting on a chair. Let your other arm hang down and try to swing it gently backwards and forwards in a circle. Repeat this motion about five times and try to do this about two or three times a day. This can be a good warm-up exercise.

Shoulder stretch

Squeeze your shoulder blades back and together and hold for five seconds. Pull your shoulder blades downward and hold for five seconds. Relax and repeat 10 times.

Resistance band stretch for shoulders

Hold either a yellow or red elasticated resistance band in your hands, with your fingers curled around it facing inwards. Your elbows should be bent at waist height, just above your hips, with your arms and hands in line with your shoulders.

Keeping your elbows in the same position at your sides, stretch the band to the furthest comfortable point and hold for a count of 10. Gently bring your hands back in line with your shoulders. Repeat this 10 times. Try to do this exercise three times a day.

Backwards table press

Standing upright with your back to the table and your palms against its edge, gently push your shoulder blades back and your hands against it. You are not trying to move the table, just to meet its resistance. The exercise should help strengthen the muscles around your shoulder.

Table slide

Sitting upright, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor beneath them at hip-width apart, bend your elbows and rest the palms of your hands on a flattened cloth on the table in front of you.

Gently, slide the cloth forwards across the table, tilting from your waist and keeping a straight back. Slide both hands as far as is comfortable, aim to straighten your arms. Allow your head to slowly drop forward and hold for five seconds. Slowly slide back and repeat.

If it's uncomfortable to place your palms flat on the table have them facing each other for this exercise.

Door press

(a) Stand in a doorway with your elbow bent at a right angle and tucked close to your body. The back of your wrist should be pressed against the door frame. Try to push your arm outwards, against the door frame. Hold for five seconds. Do this 10 times on one side, then 10 times with your other arm on the opposite side of the door frame. If you can, try to do two more sets, so that you've done a total of 30 with each arm.

(b) This time start with the other arm, and with your elbow at a right angle, push your palm towards the side of the door frame that you used in part (a). Hold for five seconds. Do this 10 times on one side, then 10 times with your other arm on the opposite side of the door frame. If you can, try to do two more sets, so that you've done a total of 30 with each arm.