How to Use Resistance Bands for Shoulder Rehab: The 5 BEST Exercises

Resistance Bands for Shoulder Rehab

Using resistance bands for shoulder rehab might be one of the best ways to get back on track after a shoulder injury.

But which exercises should you do? And how do you get to it for the best results?

Read on and discover exactly how resistance bands can be your savior from unwanted shoulder pains!

Resistance Bands for Shoulder Rehab: The Top 5 Exercises

1. External Horizontal Rotation

Here is how to pull it off:

  1. Attach a resistance band to something sturdy at roughly navel level. 
  2. Stand sideways to the attachment point and grab the band with your outside hand. 
  3. Bend your elbow at 90 degrees and keep it close to your torso. 
  4. Take a step away from the band’s attachment point to pull the slack off the band and create a bit of tension.
  5. Bring your chest out, take a breath, and begin to rotate your hand horizontally against the band’s line of resistance. 
  6. Go as far as your strength and mobility allow, then bring the arm to the starting position as you exhale.
  7. Once finished, rotate your position and repeat with your other side.

2. Internal Horizontal Rotation

This movement is similar to the one we saw above but is slightly different. Here is how to do it:

  1. Attach a resistance band at roughly navel level.
  2. Stand sideways to the attachment point and grab the band with your inside hand.
  3. Bend your elbow at 90 degrees and keep it close to your torso.
  4. Take a lateral step from the attachment point to lengthen the band and create some tension.
  5. Take your chest out, inhale, and rotate your hand horizontally and toward your stomach, against the band’s line of resistance.
  6. Rotate as much as you can and slowly release the band to the starting position.
  7. Once you do your repetitions, switch your position, and do it for your other side.

3. External Vertical Rotation

Here are the instructions:

  1. Attach a resistance band to an anchor point at chest level. 
  2. Face the band, grab it with one hand, and take a step back to create some band tension.
  3. As you’re holding the band, lift your elbow to your side and bent it at 90 degrees. It should be in line with your shoulder joint.
  4. With your palm facing down, bring your chest back, take a breath, and rotate your shoulder until your knuckles face the ceiling.
  5. Rotate as much as you can and slowly release the band to the starting position.
  6. Once finished, grab the band with your other hand and perform the same motion.

4. Shoulder Extension

Here are five easy steps to master this move:

  1. Attach a resistance band somewhere over your head – a resistance band door anchor or pull-up bar will work great.
  2. Grab the band with one hand and take a step back to pull the slack from the band. Make sure your wrist is in a neutral position and your elbow is straight.
  3. Pull the band over from shoulder height to your waist while keeping your arms straight.
  4. Return the band to the starting position and repeat. 
  5. Once finished with one side, grab the band with your other hand and do the same number of reps.

5. Frontal Shoulder Flexion

Here is how to do this move:

  1. Step over one side of a resistance band with your left foot and grab the other side with your left hand.
  2. Stand up and have your arms straight and to your side with the palm facing your body.
  3. Bring your chest back, take a breath, and raise your arm forward and up until it becomes parallel with the floor.
  4. Lower your arm as you exhale before repeating.
  5. Once finished, step over the band with your right foot, grab it with your right hand, and repeat the sequence.

Take Care of Your Shoulders

These movements are fantastic for rehab purposes and do a great job of strengthening your rotator cuff muscles, improving joint stability, and helping you heal injuries. The activities are also fantastic for prehab – do them regularly to avoid getting injured in the first place. For example, you can use these movements for your shoulder warm-ups before training.

Important Safety Considerations to Keep in Mind

Now that you have some solid options to pick from, let’s go over some quick safety considerations.

First, it should go without saying, but you should always consult with a professional, especially as it relates to shoulder pain. The shoulder is an incredibly mobile joint, which is why it can perform a wide range of movements. Thus, the joint is also more susceptible to injuries and aches that can occur from many things (1). So, no single solution will work for every situation.

Second, you need to focus on proper execution and a smooth range of motion on every repetition. The goal here isn’t to use the heaviest bands possible but to have your shoulder go through the full range of motion, be the primary working muscle, and strengthen as a result. It’s also a good idea to use light bands here. They should be tense at the start, but you should still be able to stretch them with relative ease.

And third, you need to be mindful of your shoulder. Rehab work is somewhat intuitive, and you need to be sure that you’re doing productive work. If you start feeling pain while doing any of the movements or it gets worse after a session, stop what you’re doing (2). This is another reason why working with a professional is a good idea.

Final Words: Using Resistance Bands for Shoulder Rehab Works

You can do these movements with bands as part of your warm-up or shoulder-training routine for rehab purposes. If you need shoulder rehab and are looking for exercises to try, I advise you to talk with a professional before doing anything.

In any case, each repetition should feel smooth and should activate your shoulder musculature as best as possible.

If you want to learn more about resistance bands – be sure to check out my MASSIVE at-home strength-building archive, LOADED with actionable fitness tips and workouts that brings results!

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Other Helpful Resources

References

  1. Quillen DM, Wuchner M, Hatch RL. Acute shoulder injuries. Am Fam Physician. 2004 Nov 15;70(10):1947-54. PMID: 15571061.
  2. Smith BE, Hendrick P, Smith TO, et al. Should exercises be painful in the management of chronic musculoskeletal pain? A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2017;51:1679-1687.