Shoulder Strength Exercises

Shoulder Strength Exercises

A poor desk set-up, stiff and inflexible bodies, poor body awareness, too much time spent in the same position – there are many causes for back, neck and shoulder pain due to sitting at a desk. We have put together a short series of 4 exercises which are designed to improve the activation, awareness and strength in the musculature around the shoulders to improve scapula movement and stability and reduce pain associated with desk work.

Exercise 1 is to strengthen the muscles between the shoulder blades (rhomboids) which are often weak and over-stretched, particularly during a sustained slouch position, or when the arms are held for long periods in front of the body as they are when typing and using a mouse. This exercise focuses on retraction of the scapula.

Exercise 2 is to strengthen and improve external rotation at the shoulder joint. Rounded shoulders, tight chest muscles and restrictions in movement at the shoulder are often a sign that external rotation is limited.

Exercise 3 is to strengthen the upper portion of the trapezius muscle. This big muscle has fibres running in several directions and has many different functions, helping to move and support the shoulder girdle. Underlying the trapezius muscle is a smaller muscle called levator scapula which is often short and tight. By activating the upper trapezius the shoulder blade is able to rotate into a more efficient and balanced position which can ease neck and upper shoulder pain and headaches in particular.

Exercise 4 is to strengthen the lower portion of the trapezius muscle which assists in shoulder blade positioning and stability.

These exercises work really well when performed as a set of 4 but you can also do them in isolation.  

Directions | Shoulder Strength Exercises

 

Retraction/rhomboids

  1. Bend elbows to 45 degrees, elbows underneath shoulder
  2. Squeeze the muscles strongly between the shoulder blades
  3. Feel for openness across the chest as you do and focus on the lower portion of the rhomboids contracting
  4. Return to neutral and repeat 10 times, several times a day. For increased strengthening, add in a static hold when the muscle is contracted before releasing and repeating
  5. Ensure you do not flare the ribs in this exercise

External rotation | Shoulder Strength Exercises

  1. Bend elbows to 45 degrees, elbows underneath shoulder
  2. Imagine the upper arm rotating, pivoting at the elbow so that the biceps rolls outwards and the hands move apart from one another
  3. Keep going until you can feel some activation of the muscles on the back between the shoulder blades
  4. Return to neutral and repeat 10 times, several times a day. For increased strengthening, add in a static hold when the muscle is contracted before releasing and repeating
  5. Ensure you do not flare the ribs in this exercise

Shoulder shrugs/upper trapezius

  1. Place your hands on your hips, fingers pointing downwards so that the elbows are flared out to 45 degrees
  2. Squeeze the shoulder blades up to the ears, noticing that the neck does not move in this movement
  3. Return to neutral and repeat 10 times, several times a day

Flexion at the shoulder joint/lower trapezius

  1. Start with arms by your side and raise arms forwards and up into an overhead position
  2. Ensure you do not flare the ribs in this exercise
  3. Imagine a deep ‘V’ shape from your fingertips to the centre of your back to ensure you’re activating the lower trapezius
  4. Return to neutral and repeat 10 times, several times a day

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Shoulder Strength Exercises
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