5 Shoulder Exercises to Keep Your Joints Healthy
The plank stretch is great to exercise your shoulders because, while it tones your core, it can also help strengthen your upper body including the muscles around the spine, wrists, arms and shoulders.
Start with your hand and knees on the mat, arms perpendicular to your shoulders, aligned to a straight 90-degree angle. Your wrists should align beneath the shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and let your hands and forearms support your upper body, keeping the chest open. Tuck your toes underneath the feet and step back, bringing your spine into alignment, keeping it straight.
The key is to keep your thighs lifted, legs straight, and glutes aligned so that you maintain alignment from wrist to shoulder. You want to press your quads toward the ceiling and stretch your spine toward your heels. Remember to breathe evenly as your hold the pose for several breaths. To release the pose, bring the knees to the floor and rest.
If you have existing medical conditions such as carpal tunnel or osteoporosis, you can do a half plank, where you support your lower body with the knees. You can also come down to the forearms to reduce stress on the hands and wrists.
While yoga practitioners refer to this stretch as Cobra, this is not just for yogis; this stretch can help strengthen and open the shoulders.
Begin with your hands and knees on the mat. Stretch your legs back so the tops of your feet touch the mat. Place your hands below your shoulders and keep your elbows close to the body. Press your lower body into the mat. When you breathe in, straighten your arms and lift your chest off of the mat.
You can also do a modification, Baby Cobra, where you lie on your stomach with your hands by your sides and lift through the neck bringing up the chest. In this way, the back muscles including lower trapezius, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and serratus posterior get the workout they need to get stronger and better support the head. This will help to alleviate the pain of those stiff muscles around the shoulder.
Threading the Needle
Threading the Needle is a great stretch for the shoulder because it will open up the upper and outer shoulder muscles. This is a gentle pose that can help strengthen the shoulders while providing soothing sensations that will help you relax.
Start on the mat on your hands and knees–this is called Table Pose. Bring your left arm to the mat between your right arm and knee. Outstretch your right arm toward the top of the mat, bringing your head down and to the right to align with your left hand. You can use your right hand to stabilize your upper body or reach above your head for a deeper stretch. Remember to breathe smoothly and slowly through the pose. To switch sides, come back to the Table Pose on hands and knees and repeat the process with the right arm.
The Extended Puppy stretch is another great pose from the yoga tradition that’s designed to give your shoulders and upper body a gentle stretch that also works to strengthen those muscles.
Come down to your hands and knees so the knees stay below the hips and shoulders, and the knee and tailbone are aligned. Walk your hands forward towards the top of the mat as you curl your toes under. Exhale, keeping your elbows slightly above the mat and shift your glutes toward your feet. You can also relax your neck and drop your forehead to the mat or a blanket. Press your hands into the mat and feel the length of your spine as you pull your hips back. Breathe smoothly and deeply, then release the pose and come back up on your hands, or revolve into the next pose.
Dolphin Pose can help to strengthen the shoulders, upper back, arms and legs, so it’s an ideal posture to target multiple muscle groups, improve flexibility, and release some tension in the back.
Begin on hands and knees in Table Pose. From here, align the wrists and shoulders. Your knees should be directly under your hips. Bring your elbows to the mat below your shoulders. The wrists should now be flat on the mat, hands pointing to the top of the mat, and your weight should be on your forearms. With your feet planted, bring your knees up and “reach” with your pelvis upward, straightening your legs. Bring your shoulder blades toward the lower part of the back. Keep your neck relaxed and focus your gaze toward the navel or between the legs. Breathe smoothly as you feel through the pose, and when you’re ready, relax and bend your knees and come back to Table Pose or rest in Child’s Pose.
Before beginning any exercise regimen, consult with your physician to determine if these exercise recommendations are right for you.