6 Exercises to Fight Against Crunchy Shoulders

6 Exercises to Fight Against Crunchy Shoulders

If you hear a lot of popping, snapping, and clicking when you move your arm, you just might have crunch shoulder. Don’t worry. You’re not doomed to crunchy shoulders forever. What can you do to help get rid of this crunchy shoulder condition? Use these favorite exercises to fight off noisy shoulders.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

As the bridge between your arm and your torso, the shoulder is quite the complicated joint. It has multiple moving parts and functions in several planes, requiring many muscles, tendons, and ligaments to work together for smooth movement.

Your shoulder joint is what’s known as a ball and socket joint. This type of joint is held together by tendons, ligaments, and muscles. So, it’s important to keep those areas healthy.

There are 2 main joints, 3 bones, and more than 15 muscles that comprise the shoulder.

The joints are:

  • Glenohumeral joint: this is the ball-and-socket joint at the top of the arm bone and the socket of the shoulder blade
  • Acromioclavicular joint: this is where your collarbone joins with your shoulder blade

The bones are:

  • Scapula (your shoulder blade)
  • Clavicle (the collarbone)
  • Humerus (upper arm bone)

And the shoulder muscle groups:

  • Serratus anterior
  • Levator scapulae
  • Omohyoid
  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres major and minor
  • Subscapularis
  • Trapezius
  • Triceps brachii
  • Biceps brachii
  • Rhomboid major and minor
  • Coracobrachialis
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Deltoid
  • Pectoralis major and minor

Remember, it takes a village. That means when you work on your shoulders, it’s not an isolated event. Other muscles will rally to help you lift, stabilize, and support. In addition to the joints, bones, and muscles are a host of smaller tendons and ligaments, as well as cartilage, that all need to be considered when exercising to ease crunch shoulder.

Always take plenty of time to warm your muscles up before starting your workouts. A warm muscle is a pliable muscle, and you’ll have a fuller range of motion and less chance of injury.

What Is Crunch Shoulder?

Crunchy shoulders are pretty common, especially as you get older. Just because your shoulders are loud doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a big problem. A crunch shoulder will pop or crack when you move it. Crunchy shoulders can be the outcome of a variety of issue like:

  • Old injuries
  • Not enough movement or a sedentary lifestyle
  • Air in the joint
  • Tears
  • Bursitis
  • Osteoarthritis

And all of these things aren’t a problem necessarily, as long as they’re not accompanied by pain. But if you are in pain, there are several ways you can treat crunch shoulder and pain:

  • You can use anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Use ice and heat strategically
  • You could try physical therapy or massage
  • See if you need chiropractic care or even surgery
  • You could avoid using your shoulders (or using them in specific positions)

Or… you can use these exercises instead to help fight crunchy shoulders.

Use These Exercises to Help Get Rid of Crunch Shoulder

Rotator cuff exercises, internal and external rotator cuff exercises, and shoulder blade (scapular) muscle exercises all contribute to healthy shoulders and crunch-free shoulder movement. Try adding some of the following exercises to your routine to combat crunch shoulder. And always begin by starting with a great warmup to ensure your muscles are pliable and ready to work.

Wall Climbs—this is a great rehab exercise. Start by standing in front of a wall. Reach your right arm out so that your fingertips touch the wall. Slowly walk your fingers up the wall. Once you reach the top and your arm is fully extended, walk your fingers down to the side until your arm is parallel with the floor. Continue walking your hand all the way down and then repeat on the opposite side.

Figure 8s—start with no weight or a very lightweight dumbbell. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Hold the weight straight out in front of you with both hands and move it in a figure 8 pattern. Go in one direction ten times and then reverse the direction for another ten rounds.

Face Pulls for Shoulder Strength—this exercise is a fantastic way to work your weak shoulder region muscles. For those who sit and tend to slump during the day, countering that position with pulls is a great practice.

Start by standing in front of a cable machine with a dual-ended rope and adjust the cable height to about shoulder level. Grab each end of the rope with your palms out, thumbs facing you. Pull the rope back by pulling your elbows back horizontally. Your hands will end up next to your ears at the top of the movement. Allow the rope to move back to the start, and repeat.

Prone Floor Press—use this exercise to work your shoulder blades, traps, and rotator cuffs. Lie on your stomach with a very light dumbbell in each hand, and stretch your arms out in front of you (over your head). Gently lift your hands off the ground and bend your elbows to bring your hands down near your ears. Remember to keep the dumbbells off the ground throughout this movement. Once fully retracted, straighten your arms again, and bring the dumbbells back up overhead. Rest and repeat.

Exercise Band Rows—these will help you pump nourishment-rich blood into your shoulder area. Wrap a relatively lightweight resistance band around a pole at about chest level. Grab one end in each hand and, keeping your elbows tucked at your sides, pull your elbows back, bringing your hands to your sides. Control the forward movement of the band as you straighten your arms. Repeat this motion for a set of 30 repetitions. Also, for variety, try bringing your elbows higher or lower to hit more areas of the back, shoulders, and traps.

band rows

Downward Facing Dog to Dolphin—yoga poses are going to help strengthen a lot of areas of the body, and downward facing dog is especially helpful for tight, crunchy shoulders. Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart. Bend forward at the waist until your hands are on the ground (you may need to bend your knees). Walk your hands out until your torso and legs are at a 90-degree angle from each other (your body will form an “A”). Your palms will be flat on the floor. Keep your head between your arms. Feel a big stretch through your shoulders. To deepen the stretch, move from this Downward Dog pose into Dolphin pose by bending your elbows to bring your forearms to the ground.

downward facing dog

Because your shoulders are such a complex joint, focusing on them with exercises that help fight against crunch shoulder will help all of your movements become stronger. You’ll have better daily functionality and less chance of injury.