Various stretching and strengthening exercises keep your rotator cuff muscles and shoulder joints flexible and strong, warding off injury, stiffness or other chronic shoulder issues. Stretching exercises contribute most to your shoulders' range of motion, but strengthening exercises remain important to long-term shoulder health and function as well.
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This exercise enhances range of motion in your shoulder by stretching the rotator cuff muscles prior to strengthening workouts. Bend forward from the waist into a 90-degree L-shaped position and facing the floor. Let your arms hang straight down and loose. Slowly sway your relaxed arms side to side, then back and forth, and eventually around in circles, repeating each repetition about 10 times.
Door Frame Stretch
The door frame stretch is another type of exercise enhancing range of motion by stretching the rotator cuff muscles. For this exercises, stand in front of a door frame as if you're about to walk through it. Bend your elbows into 90-degree angles and press your palms against either side of the door frame. Walk forward into the door opening as far as possible without removing your palms from the door frame. Hold the stretched position for a few seconds and then relax and repeat for a few repetitions.
Assisted Shoulder Stretch
Reach your right arm across your chest and grasp it directly above the elbow with your left hand. Now pull the right arm further across the body -- in a slow and gentle motion -- until you feel the muscles in the back of your shoulder stretch. Stop and hold the stretched position for 30 seconds, then relax and repeat for a few repetitions before switching arms and going again.
Stretch and Swing Lift
This exercise both stretches and strengthens rotator cuff muscles but requires some of the aforementioned stretching exercises beforehand to warm up the muscles and prevent injury. After warming up, lie on your side on a table or workout bench with your right arm stretched above your head and resting on the table and your left shoulder pointing up to the ceiling. Holding a light dumbbell in your left hand, bend your elbow into an L-shape with your elbow tight into the left side of your body and the lower arm pointing away from you. Keeping your elbow tight to your side, lift the dumbbell toward the ceiling as high as you can, then lower to the starting position, repeating this motion for several repetitions. Then switch sides and repeat.
This exercise requires small dumbbell weights for both hands. Holding the weights up, bring your elbows up to shoulder level and outstretched to your sides, keeping the elbows at 90-degree angles. Now swivel your forearms forward, lowering the weights as far as possible, than lifting them back up again. This creates a motion that mimics the flap of a pet door opening and closing.