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Mobility Exercises for Shoulder Impingement

Start with arm circles. Ideally, you want to keep your shoulder blades (scapulae) squeezed together as you take your shoulders through small, controlled circles, forward and backward.

Proceed to Cow-Cat to mobilize your spine and scapulae. Alternate between flexion and extension of your spine, focusing on controlled movement throughout.

You can do as many Cow-Cats and arm circles as are needed to feel that your shoulders and scapulae are warmed up.

Next, do shoulder dislocates using a resistance band. The idea is to hold onto the ends of a resistance band with your arms spread apart, elbows straight, and to take the band up and over your head, ending with the band behind you. The wider your grip on the band, the easier this will be. You can find a separate video on this here:

Stick Mobility Exercises

A resistance band is a nice alternative to a rigid stick, as it allows a bit of give as you work at improving your shoulder mobility. Over time, with improved active control over this range of motion, you can increase tension on the resistance band by narrowing your grip on the band.

If you have existing shoulder issues, I suggest using the thinnest band you can find, something like the micro mini orange band here:

Resistance band

Next, anchor a thicker resistance band above your head, slip your arm through so that it is resting on the portion of your triceps muscle that is close to your elbow, bend that elbow and shoulder so that the hand of that arm is resting on your upper back or the back of your neck, use your other hand to stabilize your bent elbow, and gently lean your body weight forward until you feel a good stretch through your shoulder. Gently rock forward, inducing more range of motion through your shoulder as you are able to, and play with a bit of trunk rotation to further improve shoulder flexibility.

Next, take your shoulder through a relaxed throwing motion while holding a light weight. You can use a light dumbbell, tennis racquet, or even a long sock with a tennis or baseball stuffed into its end. The idea is to allow the object that you are holding to swing freely along with your shoulder.

Repeat the same motion but follow through with your throwing arm on the other side of your body, letting the momentum of your arm allow it to swing back to the starting position, creating something of a figure 8 pattern. It's best to use only the minimum amount of strength needed to securely hang onto the weight you are using, and let your shoulder go through this throwing motion freely and naturally.

Next, take your shoulder through an internal rotation stretch, sometimes called a sleeper stretch. Lie on your side, have the arm extend straight out from your trunk to create a 90 degree angle between your upper arm and trunk, bend your elbow so that hand is pointing up to the ceiling, then use your other arm to gently push your hand toward the ground, inducing internal rotation through your down-side shoulder. You can alternate in periods of resistance where you actively try to externally rotate your down-side shoulder while using your other arm to prevent it from moving - a hold-time of about ten to twenty seconds should allow you to deepen the internal rotation stretch immediately after.

Finally, you can use a heavier object like a mace, an Indian club, a tennis racquet with a cover on its head and some added weight inside like a set of keys, or a baseball bat with a weighted ring or donut on it, and while holding the object of your choice behind your head, hanging down toward your buttocks, allow it to swing freely like a pendulum. Do this with your right hand at the bottom of the grip, and then with your left hand at the bottom of the grip to make sure that both shoulders are worked equally.

For an overview of exercise progressions that you can work at to improve your mobility and balance in a systematic way, please feel free to visit our Mobility Exercise Progressions page here:

Mobility Exercise Progressions

For some suggestions on how to set up a simple workout area at home, please feel free to view:

Suggested Resources for a Home Gym


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