Shoulder Prehab Exercises

If you know me, you know that I abuse my shoulders on a daily basis.  Most days I’m either surfing or rock climbing followed by an obsene amount of hours behind my computer (blogging is a hard business 😜).  My shoulders are a mess.  But they serve me well and I get a lot of joy out of the sports they allow me to perform so in return, I spend a lot of time giving them love back in the form of these prehab shoulder exercises.

What are Prehab Shoulder Exercises?

Prehab shoulder exercises are designed to improve your range of motion in the rotator cuffs, pecs, and lats so that your shoulders can move more freely and so that you can maintain proper alignment in your activities. The rehab shoulder routine also focuses on bringing up the smaller or often ignored muscle groups, especially in the mid back, that are responsible for anchoring your shoulder blades to keep further proper alignment in your posture and better range of motion in the shoulders.

Prehab Shoulder Exercises in Yoga

While I try to go to yoga as often as possible and my favorite yoga instructor (thanks Annika) does a rock star job at keeping me pain free and ready to rock, but when I travel, I have to make a huge effort to take care of my shoulders on my own. 

Prehab Shoulder Exercise Routine

This is the shoulder rehab exercises I do on my own to keep my shoulders as mobile as possible.

A lot of shoulder pain comes from tightness in the chest and weakness in the mid and upper back.  By addressing these two issues, you can often fix a lot of shouder issues or at least keep them from becoming major issues.

For the most part, this prehab shoulder routine consists of alternating a stretch with a strengthening movement. Always remember to hold good posture with the shoulders drawn away from the ears.

Tip for improving your shoulder rehab exercise routine: We are athletes and strive to excel in our sports, but we are also human beings with emotions to process and conditions to make sense of. Start off your rehab shoulder routine with breath work.  I like to spend 5 minutes before I start this routine with a block or towel under my mid back and my arms extended out to the side while slowing down my breath and relaxing. Just checking in and scanning to see what is going on in my body and my mind definitely helps me get the most out of these shoulder exercises.  

Notice the depth of your breath.  Notice the heaviness or lightness of your body.  Notice the thoughts ruminating in your mind. Not always, but sometimes, shoulder pain stems from emotions and not just lifestyle.

Okay, enough spirituality, let’s get to it and get your shoulders ready to perform.

For this shoulder prehab routine, you are going to alternate a strengthening movement with a stretch. We use this band for the exercises, but any form of light tubing should be fine. Hold each of the stretches for 1-3 minutes while working on deepening your breath and remember to have good posture when doing the exercises. A lot of shoulder pain stems from poor posture so remember to line up the ears with the shoulders, draw the scapula down and slightly together, and keep the neck long.

1 | Chest Opener

  • Lie on your stomach on the ground.
  • Extend one arm either straight out to the side of your body or for a deeper stretch, cactus the arm which means elbow is at shoulder level and forearm is on the floor.
  • Use the other hand to press gently on the ground and peel your chest away from the floor.
  • You can also step the top foot behind you to get an even deeper stretch
  • Move slowly and with control

2 | TYI

  • Lie on the floor with the arms extended out perpendicular to the body (option to hold a light weight of 2-5#)
    Lift the arms 10 times while squeezing the shoulder blades together as the neck stays long.  
    Then raise the arms 45 degrees up and again lift the arms up and down for 10 reps
    Last, lift the arms overhead turning the thumbs up and lift the hands 10 times.  If you are really tight in the shoulders it will be hard to keep the scapula pulled down while doing this but try to stay anchored between the shoulder blades and don’t shrug.

3 | Lat Openers

Prehab Shoulder Exercises
  • Place hands on a wall or elevated surface like a table.
  • Hinge at the hips and walk your feet back until your torso is about perpendicular to the floor.
  • Keep the palms level with the hips and let the chest drop heavy toward the floor allowing the shoulders to open and to feel a stretch along the sides of the ribcage.

4 | Seated Band Row

Prehab Shoulder Exercises
  • Start seated with your elbows at 90 degrees while holding a resistance band wrapped around a stationary object
  • This time when you pull the band, allow your elbows to bend as you squeeze the shoulder blades together.
  • Do 15-20 repetitions

5 | Side Lying Neck Stretch

Prehab Shoulder Exercises
  • Lie on a bench, bed, or table with your head hanging off the edge
  • Place the hand of the top arm behind your back (add a weight in your hand for a deeper stretch)
  • Maintain length in the neck as you let the head hang heavy
  • Hold it for 1 minute
  • Then roll to the other side

6 | Band Buddha

Prehab Shoulder Exercises
  • Depress the scapula (pinch the shoulder blades down your back and the bottom edge towards each other)
  • Lift your chest and broaden the collar bones
  • Hold a thera band with the palms turned up, thumbs pointing outward, and elbows at 90 degrees
  • Pull the band outward while working on squeezing the shoulder blades together
  • Be sure to keep the neck long and the breath fluid
  • Do 15-20 repetitions

7 | Pullover Stretch

Prehab Shoulder Exercises
  • Lie on a bench (or table) with one dumbell in both hands
  • Extend the dumbell overhead as far as you can, feeling a nice stretch in the lats
  • Hold it for 1-2 minutes then let the weight fall to the floor

8 | Scapula Squeeze

Prehab Shoulder Exercises
  • Start like you did in the seated row, sit on bench or floor holding an anchored resistance band
  • Sit back far enough that your arms stay extended
  • Keep the chest lifted and a long neck
  • Pull on the band by squeezing the shoulder blades together and down. This one is done with straight arms the entire time
  • Do 15-20 repetitions

9 | 1/2 Cow Face with Strap

Prehab Shoulder Exercises

This stretches internal and external rotators of your shoulders and protects your rotator cuff.

  • Hold a strap in one hand and reach that hand above your head
  • Bend that elbow so you hand falls behind your neck
  • Reach behind you with the opposite hand with the thumb pointing up and grab the strap
  • Gently pull down with the bottom hand in order to stretch the shoulder of the top arm
  • Hold that for 1 minute then pull up on the top arm allowing the bottom hand to come up the spine and stretch the internal rotator cuffs

10 |Rear Delt Pull

Prehab Shoulder Exercises
  • Hold the band with straight arms out in front of your chest, slightly lower than shoulder level
  • Depress the shoulders and keep the chest lifted while pulling the band apart with straight arms
  • Do for 15 repetitions

11 | Handcuff stretch

Prehab Shoulder Exercises
  • Interlace your hands behind your back (or use a strap if you need to) and place them on a bench behind you
  • Lean forward until you feel a stretch  
  • Hold for 1-2 minutes

12 | Overhead Band Pull Down

  • Hold your light resistance band overhead with straight arms
  • Pull the band apart while bending the elbows, bringing the band behind your head while maintaining good posture

13 | Reverse Shrug off Bench

  • Place your hands on the edge of a bench, fingers pointing forward
  • Walk your feet out as if you were going to do a back dip
  • Sink into the shoulders letting the shoulders creep up to the ears
  • Then depress the shoulders while squeezing the lower scapula together 
  • Repeat 15 times

Hope these 13 prehab shoulder exercises helps you keep your shoulders happy, healthy, and ready to play! If you are struggling with a shoulder injury that just won’t go away or you need a better strengthening program, reach out to Victor. He has 25 years of experience as a strength coach 😊.

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