A pulled or strained shoulder muscle is a common injury. Shoulder injuries are usually a result of weak rotator cuff muscles, which are used for shoulder stabilization. After pulling a shoulder muscle, it is crucial to discontinue exercise and rest and ice the injury for 72 hours. Once the injury has healed and your doctor has approved exercise for you, there are some exercises and stretches you can perform to prevent future injuries.
Rotator Cuff Muscles
The rotator cuff is made of up four small muscles -- supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus and teres minor -- that aid in shoulder movement and stabilization. Rotator cuff injuries usually involve any type of irritation or damage to the muscles or tendons, such as tendonitis, bursitis, strains and tears, according to the Mayo Clinic. When you are strengthening your shoulder muscles, first warm up the muscles for at least five minutes to promote blood circulation and prevent further injuries. Any weight used to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles should be extremely light, and the movements performed slowly.
Internal and External Rotation
Exercises that strengthen the rotator cuff muscles include internal rotation and external rotation exercises. These exercises can be performed with no weight, light dumbbells or resistance bands. Internal rotation is performed by lying on your side with elbow bent at 90 degrees. Keeping elbow close to your side, rotate your arm toward your body, pause for a moment and return to start. External rotation is performed by lying on your left side, holding dumbbell or band in your right hand with the elbow bent at 90 degrees. Lift up until the back of the hand is facing backward. Repeat each exercise on both arms for 10 repetitions.
Other Shoulder-strengthening Exercises
Lateral raises are a shoulder exercise that strengthen the rotator cuff muscle. Performed them by raising your arms out to the side, to about shoulder height. Exercises that involve squeezing the shoulder blades together can also help prevent injuries, such as wall push-ups, shoulder rolls or seated cable rows. Perform each exercise slowly to fully contract the muscle.
Pendulum swings are a way to stretch and warm up your shoulder muscles. Stand and lean over with the arm hanging and swing it in small circles while gradually enlarging the size of the circles. Repeat 10 times on both arms. Stretch the back of the shoulder by pulling your arm with the opposite hand across your chest. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Stretches should not be painful.