Author: Chloe Wilson BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy
Shoulder rehab exercises help to improve the strength and function of the arm.
The shoulder needs good strength and mobility so that the arm can move freely without any discomfort.
Whether you are recovering from a shoulder injury such as a rotator cuff tear or surgery, are an athlete looking to improve both strength and performance, or anywhere in between these exercises can be tailored to help you. Strength training without the need for weights!
Theraband is a great tool when doing shoulder rehab exercises. It is a specially designed elastic band that provides graded resistance to movements helping to improve both the strength, mobility and stability of the shoulder.
These theraband shoulder rehab exercises are a great place for almost anyone to start, however if you've had an injury/surgery make sure you can comfortably do these beginners exercises first.
With each of these theraband shoulder rehab exercises it is important that you start in a good position. You can do most of them either standing up or sitting down, but it is important your shoulder is in a good position.
Make sure you are sitting/standing upright, not slouched forwards. To set your shoulders in the right position, draw your shoulders up 2cm, then back 2cm and then down 2cm. This will engage the stabilising muscles around your shoulder blade to help open up the shoulder joint and allow free, controlled movement.
Purpose: Targets the muscles that bring the arm forwards and above your head and work when lifting
Set Up: Fix one end of the band to something secure and low down e.g. a table leg. Hold the other end of the band in your hand, like you would hold a microphone, with your arm down by your side
Action: Slowly bring your arms forwards as high as feel comfortable, keeping your shoulder blade drawn back slightly (as described above). Hold for 3 seconds and then slowly lower the arm back down – you may well find it harder to control the movement on the way back down
Repetition: Repeat 10-25 times, 1-2x daily
Variations: To make it easier: Start with your elbow bent, and keep it bent throughout the exercises – this shortens the lever so the muscles don’t have to work as hard
To make it harder: 1) Go slower 2) At the top of the movement, pulse the arm up and down a few times before lowering back down
Purpose: Targets the muscles that bring the arm out to the side and above your head
Set Up: Fix one end of the band to something secure and low down e.g. a table leg. Hold the other end of the band in your hand, like you would hold a microphone, with your palm facing forwards and your arm down by your side
Action: Slowly take your arm out to the side, leading with your thumb, as high as feels comfortable (keeping your shoulder blade drawn back). Hold for 3 seconds and slowly lower
Variations: To make it easier: As you lift the arm, let the elbow bend to shorten the lever
To make it harder: 1) Go slower 2) At the top of the movement, pulse the arm in and out a few times before lowering back down
Purpose: Targets the muscles that twist the arm out to the side e.g. putting your hand behind your head
Set Up: Fix one end of the band to something secure at waist height e.g. door handle. Hold the other end of the band in your hand, like you would hold a microphone, with your palm facing upwards, your elbow bent and your forearm resting across your stomach.
Action: Slowly twist your forearm out to the side, pulling the band as far as comfortable. Make sure you keep your wrist stable, don’t let is flex or twist. Hold for 3 seconds and slowly bring your hand back in
Top Tips: 1) It can help to place a small rolled up towel between your elbow and waist, making sure it doesn’t fall as you do the exercise – this helps you to keep your arm in by your side, targeting external rotation rather than abduction
2) Keep the wrist locked solid throughout, don’t let it twist or glide to the side
Progression: 1) Go slower 2) At the end of the movement, pulse the forearm in and out a few times before coming back in
Purpose: Targets the muscles that twist the arm inwards e.g. putting your hand behind your lower back
Set Up: Fix one end of the band to something secure at waist height e.g. door handle. Place a rolled up towel between your elbow and waist. With your elbow bent and your palm facing up, let your hand/forearm move out to the side as far as is comfortable and take hold of the end of the theraband.
Action: Slowly bring your hand/forearm in across your body as far as comfortable. Make sure you keep your wrist stable, don’t let is flex or twist. Hold for 3 seconds and slowly bring your hand back out
Top Tips: 1) Keep your elbow by your side – don’t let the towel drop
2) Keep the wrist locked solid throughout, don’t let it twist or glide to the side
Variations: To make it easier: Start with the forearm/hand in line with your body rather than out to the side
To make it harder: 1) Go slower 2) At the end of the movement, pulse the forearm in and out a few times before coming back out
Purpose: Targets the muscles that move the arm backwards e.g. pulling movements. You can either work on one arm at time or both arms at the same time
Set Up: Fix the band to something secure around head height e.g. in a door frame – either tie a knot in the theraband or tie it to something so that it can’t slide back through the doorframe when you pull. If you are wanting to work both arms, fix it in the middle of the theraband, if working one arm, fix it at the end. Stand facing the door and lift one or both arms forwards as high as is comfortable and take hold of the end (s) of the band, like you are holding a microphone, thumb pointing to the ceiling
Action: Slowly draw your arm down, leading with your little finger aiming to take your arm back behind you. Hold for 3 seconds and slowly let the arm come back to the starting position
Top Tips: As you draw the arm down, think about gently drawing the shoulder blades back and down too, as if you are trying to squeeze them together
Variations: To make it easier: Start with and keep the elbows bent at a right angle as you perform the exercise to shorted the lever
To make it harder: 1) Go slower 2) At the end of the movement, pulse the backwards a few times before coming back up
Purpose: Great for the posterior deltoid muscle at the back of your shoulder and shoulder blade muscles which help with stability. Can also work triceps too (see progression). Usually best to work both arms at the same time.
Set Up: Fix the middle of the band to something secure at waist height e.g. door handle. Face the door, raise your arms straight out in front of you and take hold of the ends of the band, like a microphone.
Action: Slowly draw your arms back, bending your elbow in a rowing action, aiming to get your hands at the side of your chest, just below your shoulders. Hold for 3 seconds and slowly let the arms come forwards to the starting position
Top Tips: 1) As you draw the arms back, think about also drawing the shoulder blades back and down too, as if you are trying to squeeze them together
2) Avoid the temptation to let your chest come forwards and your back to arch
Progressions: 1) Go slower 2) At the end of the movement, pulse the backwards a few times before coming back up 3) You can also work your triceps by holding at the end position, then straightening your elbows
Purpose: One of my favourite shoulder rehab exercises for anterior deltoid and pecs, whilst also helping shoulder stability
Set Up: Sit in a chair (in good posture) with the band wrapped round the back of the chair. Bend your elbows and hold each end of the band, hands by your chest, palms facing down
Action: Slowly push your arms forwards to straighten your elbows so you are reaching out in front with your hands at shoulder height (keep your shoulder blades drawn back throughout). Hold for 3 seconds and slowly bring your arms back in
Top Tips: Make sure you sit in a good position, not slouched forwards 2) You can do the exercise standing up with the band around your back, in line with the bottom of your shoulder blades/bras strap level
Progression: Go slower
So why use theraband with shoulder rehab exercises? Theraband exercise bands are used and highly regarded all over the world. Theraband is available in eight different colours, each with a precisely calibrated strength.
Theraband is versatile, cost-effective and comes in various different colours, each providing a different level of resistance. Lighter resistance bands are suitable after an injury/surgery whereas higher resistance bands provided heavy duty resistance for maximum resistance training.
By choosing the right resistance level i.e. the correct coloured band these theraband shoulder rehab exercises can work for someone recovering from an injury or an elite level athlete - the overall goal is the same, – improve strength, mobility and performance.
Here are just some of the advantages of using theraband resistance bands with shoulder rehab exercises:
There are eight different colours of theraband to choose from when doing shoulder rehab exercises. In most cases, I recommend people who have had an injury to start with the yellow and progress on from there, otherwise start with the red for arms, green for legs. Most people find that the black provides more than enough resistance.
Start with one of the lighter resistance bands when you first start shoulder rehab exercises. Build up the number of repetitions of your shoulder rehab exercises aiming to get up to around 25-30.
You can make things harder with the same band by shortening the length between the anchor point and where you hold, or easier by doing the reverse, so try that before moving on to the next colour.
Therabands usually come as a straight piece in various different lengths, approximately five inches wide but are very versatile. You can knot them to make a loop or fix onto something. If you want to be more hi-tech, you can buy loop shaped ones or handles to fix to the ends.
It is important that you have regained enough static strength and movement in the arm before starting with theraband exercises, else you may cause yourself more problems.
If you haven't already, start by working on the beginners rotator cuff exercises and once you are managing those easily, you are ready to start with these. If you are looking to improve strength and performance and have not injured your shoulder, you can start with these shoulder rehab exercises straight away!
Always ensure the end of the theraband is fixed securely, preferably by tying it to something stable like a door handle or table leg when doing theraband shoulder rehab exercises. The last thing you want is for the end to ping up and hit you.
If this isn’t possible, stand on the band, but make sure it is anchored under both feet so it doesn’t slide out. Remember, always check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any new exercise programme.
For more information including full safety advice read this theraband leaflet before starting these shoulder rehab exercises.
If these shoulder rehab exercises seem a little to challenging for you e.g. you are recovering from an injury, your arm is feeling weak and stiff or you are nervous about starting exercise, start with our beginners rotator cuff exercises. Once you are confident with those, come back and try these shoulder rehab exercises.
Page Last Updated: 10/09/19
Next Review Due: 10/09/21