Shoulder Exercises for Seniors

Shoulder Exercises to Maintain Strength, Health, and Independence

Some of us expect to grow weaker and less healthy as we get older, and it’s certainly true that so far science hasn’t found out how to completely stop or reverse the effects of advancing years on the body. Yet it’s easy to underestimate the positive effects exercise can provide to keep us active and feeling well.

For seniors, shoulder exercises (in other words, upper body strength training) offer a number of benefits:

  • Improve muscle size, muscle length, muscle fiber arrangement, and neural control.
  • Promote bone mineralization.
  • Fight osteoporosis.
  • Stabilize supporting muscles.
  • Improve function.
  • Slow or even reverse muscles loss and deterioration associated with aging.

Additionally, when shoulder exercises involve free weights, they have the advantage of simulating real-world situations where we are required to lift objects.

Shoulder Exercises for Older People

Here, then, are twelve excellent shoulder exercises for older people. It’s a good idea to start with three or four one week, switch to three or four the next week, and work your way through the whole set.

1. Diagonal Outward Shoulder Raise

This exercise strengthens the back, shoulders, and upper arms while toning the arms. It promotes shoulder mobility and the ability to reach above the head.

First, stand or sit with a weight in your hand poised over your opposite hip. Your palm should be facing inward. Next, you lift your arm up and across your body to the side. At the end of this motion, your palm should be outward. Then go back to the start position and do ten repetitions.

Be sure to keep breathing, and don’t hold the weight too tight (although, of course, not so loosely that you’re in danger of dropping it.) Your upper body should remain upright, and your elbow should extend fully to the side. Use two pounds of weight or less if you have shoulder problems.

2. Biceps Curl

By strengthening your elbow, this exercise strengthens the upper arm and makes it easier to lift things.

First, hold the weight at your side. You want your palms inward and your shoulders straight. Then lift the weight toward your shoulder while you turn your palm up. Lower your arm back into the starting position and do ten repetitions.

You should completely straighten and bend your arm while keeping your shoulders back. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it again.

3. Upright Row

This upper arm exercise strengthens upper arms and the back, improves lifting ability, and enhances mobility.

To begin, stand with the weight in both hands and the hands in front of your hips. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart. Then, bending your elbows, lift the weight toward your chin. Lower it again and do ten repetitions.

Be sure you don’t arch your back, and keep your shoulders down. Exhale while lifting the weight.

4. Diagonal Inward Shoulder Raise

This is one of the shoulder exercises that strengthen the back and upper arms, enhances shoulder mobility in a way that makes it easier to swing the arms while walking, and improves the ability to reach above one’s head.

To begin, stand or sit with the arm holding the weight at your side. Then, with your palm forward, lift your arm up and across your body to the opposite shoulder. Bend your elbow as you bring your arm over and face your palm inward. Repeat ten times. Remember to keep breathing and to move at a slow to moderate pace so there’s no appreciable momentum. If completing the movement as described here produces pain, only do the exercise within the pain-free range.

5. Overhead Elbow Extension

This exercise strengthens the upper arms and improves the ability to reach high above the level of the shoulders.

First, position the arm holding the weight in such a way that it’s cocked back over your shoulder. Then straighten your arm to lift the weight over your head. Do ten repetitions. Exhale when you’re lifting and inhale when the weight is coming back down. Be sure you’re not holding your breath and if necessary provide support for the exercising arm by holding at the elbow. If you feel a strain on your back make sure you’re sitting in a chair with good back support.

6. Bent Over Row

This shoulder exercise strengthens the back and arms. It improves the shoulder’s range of motion while also promoting the ability to pull and lift.

First, if you’re standing, lean over a chair or table. If you’re sitting, lean over your knee. Hold the weight in one arm while supporting yourself by holding onto the piece of furniture or your knee with the opposing hand. Next, raise your arm and lift your elbow to shoulder height. Do ten repetitions.

You’re pulling the weight up toward your chest while keeping your elbow and upper arm next to your ribs and your shoulders and back even. Maintain the position of your body, exhale when lifting the weight, and inhale when lowering it again.

7. Shoulder Rolls

This exercise stabilizes the shoulder blades for heavier lifting and improves the mobility when you shrug your shoulders.

To perform this exercise, first sit or stand with feet shoulder width apart and weights in hand. Then raise the shoulders toward the ears. Bring the shoulders backward and down. Do twenty repetitions. Breathe out as shoulders come up and back. Lift the ribcage, slightly flex the knees, and tuck in the chin. Keep the elbows fully extended and only move from the shoulders, which should go as high as you can manage.

8. Triceps Kickback

This exercise makes it easier to stand up from a chair, easier to reach up high, and tones and strengthens the arms.

To do triceps kickbacks, lean over your knee if sitting or over a chair or table if standing. Hold the weight in your hand. Straighten your elbow behind you as far as is comfortable. Do ten repetitions. Be sure to breathe out when moving the weight backward and breathe in when it’s coming forward again. Don’t swing it, instead, move at a slow or moderate speed. Maintain the position of your body and don’t move your elbows and upper arms.

9. Overhead Press

The overhead press stabilizes back muscles and makes a good rehab exercise. It enhances shoulder mobility and the ability to reach above one’s head.

First, with a weight in each hand, put them at chest level with your palms forward and your feet shoulder-width apart. Then raise both weights straight up at the same time. Do ten repetitions. Breathe out when you’re lifting the weights and in as you bring them down. If the exercise stresses your back, do it sitting down. Don’t arch your back, but keep your chest high.

10. Shoulder Press Lying Down

This is one of the shoulder exercises that promote shoulder and chest mobility and makes a good rehab exercise. It makes you stronger when you’re lifting with two hands or reaching forward.

First, lie on your back. You want your head, torso, and bottom all resting flat on the surface. Hold a weight in each hand with your elbows bent at right angles. Then lift your arms toward the ceiling with your elbows pointing out. Do ten repetitions. Breathe out when lifting the weights and in when bringing them back down, and hold them with a light to medium pressure. Keep the forearms parallel and lift the weights to full extension.

11. Side Shoulder Raise

This exercise improves the ability to perform such tasks as pushing a shopping cart or opening a door. It strengthens the shoulders, chest, and upper arms.

First, hold the arm supporting the weight straight down at your side with palm forward. Then raise the arm outward to the side and above your head. Do ten repetitions. Breathe out as you lift the weight and in as you bring it down. Keep the elbows slightly flexed and bring the weight all the way down slowly and under control.

12. Elbow Side Extensions

This is another of the shoulder exercises that strengthens the shoulders and upper arms. It improves the ability to grip and pull. Start with your feet flat on the floor at shoulder-width. With a weight in each hand, bend your elbows and place your hands on your chest with palms inward. Then straighten your arms to the side. Perform ten repetitions.

Breathe out when moving the weights outward and in when bringing them back to your chest. Keep your head pointed straight ahead, your elbows at chest level, and your torso erect.

Shoulder Exercises: Final Thoughts

If you need help with an exercise program to promote strength and mobility, we invite you to contact the Pain Relief Institute today for a consultation. Our expert physical therapy department is ready to help you, as are our experts in stem cell recruitment therapy, the use of Zilretta and PalinGen, laser therapy, and other forms of non-invasive pain management.