Shoulder Exercises for Seniors

To fully enjoy an active lifestyle we must always include shoulder exercises for seniors. A general conditioning program with shoulder exercises will help you return to the activities that you love, whether

Strengthening the muscles that support the shoulder will help you stay injury free and can relieve shoulder pain. The shoulder has many muscles to stabilize and maintain your join in the proper position. That is why it is so important to begin shoulder exercises for seniors.

  1. Shoulder Squeeze.
  2. Shoulder Circles.
  3. Internal and External Shoulder Rotation.
  4. Seated Row.
  5. Front and Side Shoulder Raise.
Watch my instructional video

These shoulder exercises will target the many muscles of your upper back and shoulders, to condition most the major muscle groups. These include the trapezius in the upper back, and the rhomboids between the shoulder blades. Local shoulder stabilizers are also worked including the infraspinatus supporting the shoulder joint, the subscapularis in front of the shoulder, the supraspinatus also supporting the shoulder, and the teres muscles.

Exercise 1

Shoulder Squeeze. Begin seated in a chair, ribs lifted, chin up, arms at sides. Breathe naturally in through your nose and out through your mouth. With your arms relaxed at hour sides, raise your shoulders up, then back, then down, then return to start position. Keep your chest lifted during the entire movement. Hands are palms open and relaxed. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 2

Shoulder Circles. Begin seated in a chair, ribs lifted, chin up, arms at sides. Breathe naturally in through your nose and out through your mouth. Extend your arms out to the side to shoulder level, palms down. Begin with small circles in the forward direction. Gradually increase the size of the circle until your movement is very large. This should not be painful. Try not to raise your shoulders to the ears, keep relaxed and down. Repeat again but this time reverse the direction of your arm circles.

Exercise 3

Internal and External Shoulder Rotation. Begin seated in a chair, ribs lifted, chin up, arms at sides. Breathe naturally in through your nose and out through your mouth. Position your arms at your side and bend your elbows to 90 degrees so that your forearms are parallel to the floor. In a controlled manner, with your elbows remaining touching your ribs, bring your hands back as far as comfortable, stop, then bring your hands to the center and give your body a hug. Repeat this movement 10 times.

Exercise 4

Seated Row. Begin seated in a chair, ribs lifted, chin up, arms at sides. Breathe naturally in through your nose and out through your mouth. Begin by leaning forward from the hips in a hinge movement, arms at sides. Lift your arms toward your shoulders as if a string is attached to each elbow pulling from the ceiling. Keep shoulders relaxed and down. Keep your arms close to your torso as you perform the movement. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 5

Shoulder Front and Side Raise. Begin seated in a chair, ribs lifted, chin up, arms at sides. Breathe naturally in through your nose and out through your mouth. With your arms at your sides, and elbows fairly straight, bring your arms forward to shoulder height, then back to the starting position. Then bring your arms out to the side and raise to shoulder level. Keep your shoulders relaxed, chest lifted, and chin up. Repeat 10 times.

As with any conditioning program, it should be continued for at least 4 to 6 weeks in duration. Working these muscles every other day will allow your shoulder time to recover. These exercises can also be used as a maintenance program after the conditioning is completed. To maintain your gains, simply continue the program for two or three times per week. Strengthening twice a week is a great way to keep your muscles alert and responsive and is recommended by the National Institute of Health.

Make sure to include a warm up before starting this shoulder exercise for seniors routine. A good warm up will include limbering movements like swinging your arms forward and back in a rhythmic fashion for a few minutes while marching in place. Listen to some of your favorite tunes to make the time go by easily.

After your routine is a great time to stretch out your arms and upper back. This can be easily accomplished by breathing in and raising your arms to the ceiling. Wiggle your fingers and reach as high as possible, even getting up onto your toes. Breathe out and shake your arms while relaxing your back like a rag doll.

Remember that with all these exercises, you should not feel pain. Stretching and exercising should feel good. If you have pain, especially if it is in your joints, stop and think about what you can do to modify the exercise. This can be done by reducing your repetitions of the exercise, reducing the range of motion of the exercise, or by reducing the resistance you have selected.

Shoulder exercises for seniors are a wonderful way to stay active and functional in your daily lives. Think how great it is to reach up to the high cupboard for that plate, lift your grand kids from the ground, and bring your hands behind your head to take a nap in the sunshine.

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Douglas Schrift

Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.