Our arms and shoulders assist us with almost all of our daily activities, so it's easy to see why strong shoulder muscles are so important! Weak shoulders can increase your risk for injury at the gym or going about your day lifting kids, household items, grocery bags and more. Poor posture can also lead to neck and back pain.
Don't let back pain and decreased range of motion sneak up on you. Try these three, easy-to-do shoulder and spine exercises at home. No equipment necessary.
1. Wall Angels
This upper-body mobility exercise not only strengthens the muscles responsible for holding your shoulders back (and improving your posture), it can also help maintain full range of motion. Our physical therapists recommend wall angels for everything from shoulder injury rehabilitation to improving minor back and neck pain.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, 6-12 inches away from the wall, and your back against the wall. Your arms should be resting at your sides.
- Bend your elbows 90 degrees and rotate your arms so that your shoulders, arms and back of your hands are touching the wall in a "hands up" position.
- Slowly move your arms up and over your head to form a wide "V" while maintaining contact between your elbows, hands and the wall. Only go as high as you can to keep the backs of your hands and elbows in constant contact with the wall.
- Bend your elbows and lower your arms back to the starting positions by actively pulling your shoulder blades down.
- Raise and lower your arms like this for two sets of 15 reps. You should feel your muscles working between your shoulder blades.
2. Quadruped Scapular Retraction
Never heard of "scapular retraction?" Essentially, it's pulling your shoulder blades (scapulae) back to improve posture and strengthen your shoulders. Modern life, and all of our sitting and/or hunching over computers and smartphones, has made us all much more likely to slump our shoulders.
- Start on all fours with your wrists stacked directly under your shoulders, and your knees stacked directly under your hips. This creates a "neutral" spine.
- Push into the ground, round your back slightly, and actively pull your shoulder blades together. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.
- Repeat 10-12 times for 1-2 sets.
3. Lateral Arm Raise
This simple exercise can be done while standing or sitting, and with or without hand weights. You will strengthen your lateral deltoid muscles on the side of your shoulders, as well as the muscles in your upper back.
- Stand straight with your feet hip distance apart and your arms down at your sides.
- With or without weights, raise both arms to the side with palms facing down until they are at shoulder level and parallel to the floor.
- Hold the position for one second and slowly lower your arms.
- Repeat for two sets of 10-12 reps.