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Shoulder Recovery for Summer Sports

Summers in Vermont are short and sweet.  The three months of warmth and sunshine are packed full of lake and mountain activities such as walking, hiking, paddle boarding, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, playing volleyball, softball, tennis or a mix of all of the above.

Many of our outdoor summer activities require repetitive shoulder motions for predominant movements such as paddling, throwing, pushing, or pulling.  The British Journal of Sports Medicine performed a study on the sport of competitive kayaking, which has grown tremendously in the past decade.  It found that paddle sports in general do not sustain as many injuries in comparison to contact sports.  However, of the kayaking injuries that were sustained, 53% of them were shoulder injuries. Other injuries sustained from competitive kayaking included back (20%), stomach (13%), wrist/hand (7%), and fingers (7%).

 The top three injuries identified for the shoulder were: rotator cuff injury, shoulder bursitis, and/or biceps tendonitis.  All of these are overuse injuries induced from micro-trauma or repetitive movements.

The shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body and heavily relies on static and dynamic stabilizers to work together to carry out various movements. If any of the static (ligaments) or dynamic (muscles) stabilizers are injured from overuse, then the shoulder is at increased risk for sustaining a more serious injury that could sideline you for the summer months.  Shoulder injuries account for 8-20% of all athletic injuries according to the Journal of Athletic Training.  Repetitions with paddling, swinging, and swimming accumulate quickly in addition to our day to day activities so it is important to build self-care practices into your weekly routine to maintain a healthy balance of recovery with activity.


Now that summer is in full swing, I've included a list of shoulder stabilizing exercises, shoulder & thoracic spine mobility movements, and stretches to keep your shoulders healthy!


8 Shoulder Recovery Exercises

Supplies: Foam roller, theraband, doorway. 

Perform 2-3x a week.

  1. Internal Rotation Stretch with a towel or strap:

    • Start: Begin in a standing position, holding both ends of a towel in each hand, with one arm behind your head and the other behind your mid to low back.
    • Movement: Slowly straighten your upper arm, gently pulling upward on the towel, and hold when you feel a stretch. Maintain a straight back during the exercise. Perform 2 sets of 45-60” holds each side.
  2. Thread the Needle

    • Start: Begin on all fours,
    • Movement: Lift one arm out to your side & then to the ceiling, rotating your trunk at the same time.  Make sure your eyes follow your thumb towards the ceiling. Next, reach that arm all the way under your body & through your opposite arm, rotating your trunk in the opposite direction.  Make contact with the ground to increase the intensity of the stretch.  Repeat these movements.  Hold for a 5 count in each position, 10 per side.
  3. Doorway Pec Stretch

    • Start: Begin in a standing position in the center of a doorway.
    • Movement: With your elbows bent, place your forearms on the sides of the doorway at a 90 degree angle from your sides, then take a small step forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders & chest. Hold this position.  Make sure to maintain a gentle stretch and do not shrug your shoulders during the exercise. Hold for 60" & repeat 2 times.
  4. Open Book Chest Stretch on Foam Roller

    • Start: Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and a foam roller vertically under your spine.
    • Movement: With your elbows bent, slowly move your arms away from your body toward the floor. You should feel a stretch across the front of your chest. Make sure to only move your arms to an angle at which you can lie comfortably, and maintain contact with your back on the foam roller during the stretch. Hold for 60" & repeat 2 times.
  5. Shoulder External Rotation with Scapular Retraction

    • Start: Begin in an upright standing position with your arms by your sides, holding a resistance band in both hands. Bend your elbows to approximately 90 degrees with your palms facing up.
    • Movement: Initiate the movement by squeezing your shoulder blades toward each other and rotate your forearms out to the side. Keep shoulders away from the ears.  Perform 2 sets of 10 rotations.
  6. Shoulder Extension with Resistance

    • Start: Begin standing upright with your arms straight forward and palms facing inward, holding the ends of a resistance band that is anchored overhead in front of you.
    • Movement: Pull your arms down to your sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Then bring them back up to the starting position and repeat. Make sure to keep your elbows and back straight, and do not shrug your shoulders during the exercise.  Perform 2 sets of 10 extensions.
  7. Band Rows Split Stance

    • Start: Begin in a staggered stance position, holding both ends of a resistance band that is anchored in front of you at chest height, with your palms facing inward.
    • Movement: Pull your arms back with your elbows tucked at your sides, then return to the starting position and repeat. Make sure to keep your back straight during the exercise and think of squeezing your shoulder blades together as you pull on the band.  Perform 1 set of 15 rows with each foot forward.
  8. Plank - the plank offers both shoulder and abdominal strength/endurance

    • Start: Begin lying on your front, propped up on your elbows or hands.
    • Movement: Engage your abdominal muscles and lift your hips and legs up into a plank position, keeping your elbows or hands directly under your shoulders. Hold this position for 20-30"