Isometric Exercises for the Shoulder

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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