5 Easy Shoulder Exercises That Can Help Reduce Stiffness
Whether you’re dealing with stiffness or simply trying to avoid pain and injury, these easy shoulder exercises are for you. Using these exercises for prevention or rehabilitation can go a long way toward giving you painless, free-moving, healthy shoulders.
What Are the Muscles in the Shoulder?
When you think “shoulder,” you may not realize exactly how complex this joint is. The main shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint also called the glenohumeral joint. The top of your arm is the ball, and it fits nicely into your shoulder socket. Tendons, ligaments, and muscles then do their jobs by supporting and securing these two areas together while allowing for an incredible range of motion. In fact, your shoulders have the widest range of motion of any joint in your body.
Your shoulders can flex (flexion), which includes moving your arms out to your sides, in front of your body, and up over your head. They can extend (extension) by moving your arm behind your back. They can perform abduction and adduction movements such as moving your arms out to parallel and from parallel to your sides. You also have the ability to rotate them internally and externally (in toward your body and out away from it).
What are the muscles doing all this incredible work? There are many supporting muscles but the main contributors are:
Deltoid—this is the main shoulder muscle, the one that covers the joint and gives you what we visibly call the shoulder.
Rotator cuff muscles—these are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis and are supporting muscles that help keep your shoulder joint in place as well as assist in moving your arms through all different planes of movement.
Why Do Shoulders Get Injured?
It’s relatively easy to develop issues with your shoulders if you don’t address pain and stiffness when they occur. Because the shoulders can move in any plane, this also, and unfortunately, makes them vulnerable to instability and prone to injury.
Most shoulder injuries are either tears or inflammation or may extend to fractures, arthritis, impingement, or simple instability. Preventing these is a must through proper warm-ups and easy shoulder exercises that can help reduce stiffness and the chance of injury.
Try These Easy Shoulder Exercises to Reduce Stiffness
Are you ready to get started with some easy shoulder exercises to help reduce stiffness and pain and increase your mobility, flexibility, and range of motion? Try adding some (or all!) of these to your routine:
This is a great warm-up exercise for the shoulders. Start by standing next to a waist high (or higher) stable surface. Place your left hand on the surface, bending over slightly, and allow your right arm to hang straight down. You can either do this exercise without weight or with a light weight in your hand.
Swing your arm clockwise in small circles, gradually increasing the size of the circle. Do 10 – 20 circles in one direction, and then switch to a counterclockwise motion. Switch sides and do the same for your left shoulder.
2. Inward Rotations
These can be most effectively done with an exercise band looped around a stable surface on one end (like a doorknob). After ensuring the band and the door are secure, start by standing with your right side next to the door. Grasp the band with your right hand and bend your elbow so your arm is at 90 degrees (forearm is parallel to the floor).
Next, keeping your elbow tucked to your side, rotate your arm to pull the band across your body toward your left side. Make sure there is tension on the band. Slowly allow your arm to come back across your body to the start position. Do 15 repetitions of each movement and repeat for the opposite shoulder.
3. Outward Rotations
For the outward rotation, it’s the same basic setup as above. Again, first make sure the door is secure and won’t budge. Then stand with your left side next to the door but again grasp the band with your right hand, keeping your elbow tucked to your side and bringing your forearm across your body.
Once you have the band in hand, reverse the motion to bring your forearm out in front of your body and out to the right side. (Keep that elbow stuck to your side throughout the movement!) Slowly allow the band to bring your arm back to the starting position on the left side. Do 15 repetitions of each movement and then repeat the movement for the opposite shoulder.
4. Towel Stretches
This stretch requires… you guessed it—a small towel! Stand with your feet about hip-width apart or sit up straight in a backless chair. Place one end of the towel in your right hand. Bring your right arm up and bend at the elbow, bringing your hand behind your head and allowing the towel to hang down your back. Next, place your left arm behind your back and bend at the elbow so the back of your hand is up against your back. Grab the opposite end of the towel.
Using your right arm, slowly pull upward on the towel to move your left arm higher on your back. Be gentle as increasing flexibility here will happen over time. Never force things if they hurt. Get a nice stretch through your left shoulder and then hold that position for about five seconds before releasing to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
5. Cross Chest Stretch
Start with your feet about hip-width apart. Keeping your arm straight, raise your right arm and bring it across your body at chest level. Place your left hand on your right elbow and push your arm closer to your body, feeling a good stretch through your shoulder region.
Hold this stretch for a count of five and then release your arm back to the starting position. Repeat this movement on the opposite side.
As always, if you experience any unusual pain or new pain when doing these easy shoulder exercises, stop. If the pain persists, it’s best to seek the advice of a medical professional. Keeping your shoulders healthy with regular stretches and strengthening exercises can go a long way toward helping you keep your entire body fit. Since shoulder movements are a part of so many other movements, give yourself a fighting chance by making these exercises a regular part of your workout program.