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December 25, 2021

Effective Shoulder Impingement Exercises

Shoulder impingement is one of the most common causes of injury and muscular pain that people experience. It’s caused when the tendons of the rotator cuff get caught between the bones of your shoulder joint. It most commonly happens when people do activities that involve repetitively raising their arms overhead, such as throwing a baseball. It is also common with overhead shoulder exercises, which can place the shoulder in a compromising position, especially when done with a barbell to the front of the body.

 

In this article, I will lay out a series of exercises to help you to relieve shoulder impingement pain. There are three phases of shoulder impingement exercises. The first involves bodyweight exercises you can do immediately when the pain occurs. These  exercises will help you through the initial pain. The second phase should kick two weeks after the commencement of pain. These exercises also use your own body weight Phase three exercises involve traditional weight training exercises designed to strengthen the muscles and improve range of motion.

Phase One Exercises

Codmun’s Pendulum Swings

 

 

  1. Lean on a bench that is set at hip height, supporting your body with your left arm.
  2. Hang your right arm down loosely.
  3. Swing your right arm in clockwise direction 30 times and then in a counter clockwise direction 30 times.
  4. Repeat on the other arm.
  5. Think of moving in a pendulum like motion.

Horizontal Adduction Stretch

 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart in an upright position and a neutral spine.
  2. Take hold of your left elbow with your right hand, pulling it gently across your chest and up toward your chin.
  3. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then relax for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat 10 times.
  5. Do the same on the opposite shoulder.

 

Triceps Stretch

 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart in an upright position and a neutral spine.
  2. Bend your left elbow and raise it above your head.
  3. Grasp the left elbow with your right and gently pull your left arm behind your head.
  4. Hold the fully stretched position for 5 seconds.
  5. Repeat 10 times.
  6. Do the same with the other arm.

Corner Stretch

  1. Stand facing the corner of a room.
  2. Raise your elbows and place one arm against each wall.
  3. Lean into the corner gently to stretch the deltoids and pectorals.
  4. Hold the stretch position for 5 seconds.
  5. Relax and then repeat the stretch 10 times.

 

Standing Adduction Stretch

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart in an upright position and a neutral spine.
  2. Position your right hand behind your body.
  3. Now reach behind your back and grab the right elbow with your left hand.
  4. Gently pull backwards, holding the fully extended position for 5 seconds.
  5. Repeat 5 times.
  6. Do the same on the other arm.

 

Chicken

 

  1. Sit on a bench in an upright position with a neutral spine.
  2. Place your hands behind your head.
  3. Pull your elbows directly back.
  4. Hold for 5 seconds.
  5. Repeat the stretch 10 times.

Phase Two Exercises

Active Flexion

 

  1. Stand with your arms at your sides in an upright position.
  2. With your thumbs pointing up, pivot from the shoulders to bring your straightened arms directly up to full overhead extension.
  3. Hold for a 5 second count.
  4. Lower and repeat for a total of 10 reps.

 

Active Abduction

 

  1. Stand with your arms at your sides in an upright position.
  2. Now raise your straightened right arm with your thumb up out and so that it has a 45-degree angle to your body in the top position.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat 10 times
  5. Do the same with the other arm.

Prone Extension

 

  1. Lie on a bench with your right arm hanging down to the floor.
  2. Rotate your right thumb and arm outward as far as you can then bring the arms up until it is parallel to the floor.
  3. Hold for a 5 second count.
  4. Lower under control to the start position.
  5. Do ten repetitions then repeat with the other side.

Prone Horizontal Abduction

 

 

  1. Lie on a bench with your right arm straight out parallel to the floor.
  2. Rotate your right thumb and arm outward as far as you can.
  3. Hold for a 5 second count.
  4. Lower under control to the start position.
  5. Do ten repetitions then repeat with the other side.

Supine Internal / External Rotation

 

  1. Lie face down on the floor with the left shoulder abducted to a 90-degree angle, elbow bent and arm supported on the floor.
  2. Now bring your right hand up and forward as much as you can.
  3. Hold for 2-3 seconds.
  4. Return to the start position under control.
  5. Now put the palm of your hand on the flat on the floor.
  6. Repeat for 10 repetitions then do the same on the other arm.

Supine Triceps Extension

 

  1. Lie flat on the floor on your back with your right above your body and straight so that it is in line with your mid chest.
  2. Bend the elbow to bring your hand down to your forearm.
  3. Reverse the action to return to the start position.
  4. Do 10 reps then repeat on the other side.

 

Phase Three Exercises

Shrugs

 

  1. Stand in front of a double cable pulley machine and set the pulleys at their lowest setting.
  2. Grab the cable handles and hold them at arm’s length with a neutral spine, chest out and shoulder down.
  3. Shrug your shoulders directly up toward your ears. Do not move in a circular motion.
  4. Hold the top position for 2 second count.
  5. Lower under control and repeat.
  6. Use a weight that will allow for 3 sets of 15 reps.

Biceps Curls

 

 

  1. Stand with a pair of dumbbells held at arm’s length with your palms facing toward your thighs.
  2. Supinate your left wrist to turn the dumbbell forward then curl the weight up to full contraction so that the weight is at shoulder level. Keep your elbow in at the side throughout.
  3. Contract the bicep in the top position then lower slowly under control to the start position.
  4. Repeat with the right arm, alternating arms to complete your rep count.
  5. Use a weight that will allow you to do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Towel Squeeze

 

 

  1. Fold up a towel in quarters and then eighths and then position the towel on your chest, holding it in place with your crossed right arm.
  2. Begin to squeeze your right arm against the towel. Hold the squeezed position for 10 seconds.
  3. Relax.
  4. Repeat 10 times.
  5. Do the same on the other arm.

Bent Over Row

 

  1. Lean on a bench with your left arm with your legs staggered so that your body is at a 30-degree angle to the floor. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, letting it hang down toward the floor.
  2. Maintaining a neutral spine, row the dumbbell up to your ribcage. The motion is similar to starting a lawnmower.
  3. Lower under control and repeat.
  4. Repeat on the other arm.
  5. Use a weight that allows you to do 3 sets of 15 reps on each arm.

 

Supraspinatus Lift

 

 

  1. Stand in an upright position holding a light weight in your right hand. Rotate that arm inward and point your thumb toward the floor.
  2. Bring the straightened right arm out and up to eye level. At this point, your arm should be 30 degrees to your body. Don’t go up higher than eye level.
  3. Hold this position for 3 seconds.
  4. Lower under control and repeat.
  5. Do 10 reps and then repeat on the other arm.
  6. Be sure to use a light weight on this exercise that will allow you to do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Seated Dip

 

 

  1. Sit on a bench, grasping the edges of it with both hands a little wider than hip width.
  2. Straighten your arms to full extension to bring your butt slightly off the bench.
  3. Hold the top position for 5 seconds.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Cable Side Lateral Raises

 

  1. Set the pulley on a cable pulley machine at the level of your hip.
  2. Stand side on to the machine and grab the handle with your outside arm.
  3. From a starting position with your arm at your thigh. pivot from the shoulder joint to bring your arm out and up to shoulder level (do not go any higher).
  4. Pause in the top position and then lower under control to the start position.
  5. Repeat, making sure not to use momentum to get the weight up.
  6. Do the same number of reps on each side.
  7. Use a lighter weight than you usually would on this exercise, doing 3 sets of 15 reps on each arm.

Wrap Up

 

When it comes to coming back from a shoulder impingement injury, play it safe and take your time. It is quite normal to experience a slight increase in pain when you restart exercising. However, you should persevere. Spend two weeks on each of the phases outlined above. If, by then, your pain persists, you should consult your therapist.

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Steve


Steve Theunissen is from New Zealand and is a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist with over 30 years experience. Read more about Steve in the 'about us' page.

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