A Shoulder Exercise You Should Do…and It May Surprise You!

Keeping your shoulders healthy can be a challenge. As we age, we can find ourselves trying to understand better how to keep aches and pains at bay.

We’ve been enjoying writing about keeping healthy shoulders for a while. We recently put together a quiz to help you gauge your shoulder health which you can check out here.

Plus, we’ve put together some other articles here and here on how to reduce shoulder pain, along with some great exercises and stretches.

Woman holding weighted ball overhead
Man exercising in living room

How Often Are You Moving Your Arms Overhead?

Let me ask you a question. How often do you move your arms overhead? For many of us, outside of putting away some dishes in a top cupboard, we may not be doing it that often. So many things we do daily keep our shoulders at our side; driving our car, eating, cooking, typing, etc.

This lack of movement wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself, but our bodies need to move. And not just move through a small range of motion but through the full range of motion of the joint. Given that the shoulders are the most moveable joint in the body, we need to focus on incorporating more movement.

Welcome to Overhead Lifting

Lifting overhead challenges our rotator cuff and engages our shoulder blade muscles; specifically, our serrates anterior (read more about this vital muscle in our blog post here).

The shoulder press is the most common overhead lifting exercise, and there are many ways to modify the lift if necessary. You can use a variety of implements, anything from dumbbells and barbells to a kettle ball or a medicine ball. When getting started, use something you already have and is easily accessible to do regularly.

If you haven’t lifted overhead, you can find it quite challenging. One way to modify the lift is by taking a couple of small weights and sliding them up the wall (make sure to put a sock around each weight, so it doesn’t scratch your wall!).

If you have a stiff mid-back, you might find it challenging to lift overhead. You can modify it by sitting on an incline and doing an overhead press.

What to Watch For

Avoid Shoulder Pain

Avoid shoulder pain when doing the exercise. You’ll likely fatigue rather quickly, which should improve with some practice.

Avoid Poking Your Chin Forward

Another common mistake when lifting overhead is poking the chin forward during movement. Focus on keeping your chin tucked in slightly, as this will help to keep your neck in a more neutral position.

Avoid Overarching Your Low Back

Sometimes when your mid-back is stiff, you’ll find yourself arching your low back more to compensate for the stiff mid-back.

Foam rolling is an efficient and easy way to bring quick relief to a stiff back. You’ll want to check out our article on how to use a foam roller here.

Man touching his painful shoulder

What’s Next?

I hope that this article has encouraged you to lift overhead a little more every day. Plus, with very little equipment, you can move your shoulders through the full range without fancy equipment.

If you find lifting overhead challenging or painful, we recommend seeing one of our physiotherapists for a thorough evaluation of your shoulders. We have five clinics throughout Edmonton, including Riverbend, Belvedere, Namao, and our newest clinic in Southgate Mall.