While it may seem counterintuitive, using resistance to strengthen your chest muscles plays an important role in your recovery from a shoulder injury. Not only do the muscles in your chest influence your ability to move and rotate your arm, but they also provide much-needed stability to the front of the shoulder joint. Many different exercises can be done to target this important muscle group after hurting your shoulder.
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1. Cable Flyes
This exercise helps activate the pectoralis major muscle, the largest and bulkiest muscle in the chest.
How To: With one handle of a cable column pulley held in each hand, take a staggered stance. Slowly bring your hands together at shoulder level. Hold for a few seconds and then release the tension.
Push-ups use the weight of your body to strengthen the chest muscle group.
How To: With your hands positioned under your shoulders and your elbows straight, get into a plank position on your toes. Slowly lower yourself towards the ground by bending your elbows until your chest grazes the floor. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds and then return to the starting position. If a standard push-up is too strenuous on your shoulder, modify the exercise by performing it on your knees.
Dips help activate your pectoralis minor muscle, a smaller chest muscle that sits under your pectoralis major.
How To: Hold onto parallel bars with each of your hands and elevate your body by locking your elbows and bending your knees. Lean forward slightly and bend your elbows to slowly lower yourself by 6 to 12 inches. Hold this position for a second or two and then straighten your elbows to lift yourself again. You can begin by supporting your legs on a stool or chair if the exercise is too difficult on your injured shoulder.
4. Bench Press
Bench presses are another great way to target both the pectoralis major and minor muscles.
How To: Lie on your back on a weight bench and hold onto a bar with barbells on it. Your hands should grip the bar just outside each of your shoulders. Slowly lower the bar until it lightly touches your chest and then extend your arms to elevate it again. Adding a 30- to 45-degree incline to the weight bench helps target the upper portion of your pectoralis major muscle, closest to your shoulders.
If you have shoulder pain when doing a bench press, stop before the bar touches your chest or when your elbows are parallel to the ground.
5. Chest Press
This dumbbell exercise isolates the injured shoulder and helps to improve stability by activating the pectoralis major.
How To: Lie on a weight bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your elbows bent to 90-degree angles. Extend each elbow simultaneously as you lift the weights straight up in the air. After a 1 to 2 second hold, lower the weights back down again.
Read more: Dumbbell Press Vs. Bench Press
6. Swiss Walk-Outs
Walk-outs challenge the chest muscles to stabilize the front portion of your injured shoulder against the instability of a Swiss ball.
How To: Start by lying on your stomach over a Swiss ball with your hands on the floor. Walk forward onto your hands as you allow the ball to roll down your body towards your ankles. Keep your spine straight and your abdominals engaged. When the ball reaches your feet, walk backwards again until the ball returns to your stomach. This exercise can be made easier by stopping the walk-out when the ball rolls over your knees.
Punch-outs target the serratus anterior muscle, which attaches to the ribs on the outside of your chest and helps to facilitate shoulder range of motion.
How To: Lie on your back with your arms held in the air at shoulder level and barbells in each hand. Punch the weights away from your body by rounding your shoulder blades forward. Maintain this position for 1 to 2 seconds and then return to the initial position without unlocking your elbows.
Read more: Incline Bench vs. Military Press
Do It Properly
To properly strengthen the chest muscle group, do two to four sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise. Ideally, this should be done two to three times each week. None of the exercises should cause increased pain in your shoulder. Be sure to clear these exercises with your doctor or physical therapist.