Isometric Exercises for the Shoulder

If you’ve ever had a shoulder surgery or injury, you know it can make moving your arm quite painful. Despite this, strengthening the shoulder muscles is an important part of your recovery. Isometric exercises offer a unique solution. They allow you to activate and strengthen the muscles of the shoulder without actually moving your arm. Different variations target each of your shoulder muscles.

Isometrics are a great starting point for strengthening an injured shoulder. (Image: JaoNgoh/iStock/Getty Images)

Shoulder Abduction

Abduction isometrics strengthen the muscles that lift your arm out to the side and overhead. This motion makes things like putting on a shirt or applying deodorant possible.

Step 1:

Stand with a wall on your right side and your right elbow bent at a 90-degree angle.

Step 2:

Press your forearm against the wall as though you are trying to move your arm away from your body.

Step 3:

Maintain the hold for 10 seconds and then relax the arm. After doing 10 repetitions, repeat on the opposite side.

Shoulder flexion makes reaching for the rear view mirror possible. (Image: Roman Hloba/iStock/Getty Images)

Shoulder Flexion

This exercise helps strengthen the shoulder muscles that elevate your arm straight ahead. This makes activities like putting away dishes in a cabinet or adjusting a rear view mirror possible.

Step 1:

Stand with a wall in front of you. Make a fist with your right hand and keep your elbow straight.

Step 2:

Gently push your fist against the wall as though you are trying to move your arm out in front of you.

Step 3:

Hold this contraction for 10 seconds and then relax. Complete the exercise 10 times and then repeat with the left arm.

Shoulder External Rotation

This exercise helps strengthen the external rotator muscles in the shoulder that help with activities like washing your hair and reaching for a seat belt.

Step 1:

Stand in a door frame with your right elbow bent at a 90-degree angle and your palm facing inwards.

Step 2:

Keeping your elbow firmly against your side, press the back of your right hand against the door frame like you are trying to rotate your forearm away from your body.

Step 3:

Maintain the hold for 10 seconds and then relax. Repeat 10 times before switching to the left arm.

Reaching into your back pocket to retrieve a wallet is an activity that requires shoulder extension. (Image: Denisfilm/iStock/Getty Images)

Shoulder Extension

This exercise strengthens the shoulder muscles used during activities like putting a wallet in your back pocket or reaching into the back seat of a car.

Step 1:

Stand with your back to a wall and your right elbow bent at a 90-degree angle.

Step 2:

Press your elbow into the wall as though you are trying to move the arm backwards.

Step 3:

Hold this contraction for 10 seconds and then relax. Perform 10 repetitions before switching to the other arm.

Shoulder Internal Rotation

Internal rotation isometrics activate the shoulder muscles used while reaching behind the back to tuck in a shirt or clasp a bra.

Step 1:

Stand in a door frame with your right elbow bent at a 90-degree angle and your palm facing inwards.

Step 2:

Without allowing your elbow to leave your side, press your palm into the door frame as though you were trying to rotate your forearm towards your abdomen.

Step 3:

Continue to press into the frame for 10 seconds before relaxing your arm. Do 10 repetitions of the exercise before repeating with the left shoulder.

Warnings and Precautions

When working on shoulder strength, complete two to three sets of the 10 repetitions of each isometric exercise. This can be done two to three times per week. Begin by pushing with a 25-percent effort and gradually progress towards 100-percent effort as the exercises become easier. Be sure to talk to your doctor prior to beginning isometrics if you have recently had surgery on your shoulder.

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