One of my clients just had a shoulder injury – it was a weak rotator cuff muscle that wasn’t stabilizing the shoulder joint properly and she has hyper-extended elbows and wrists issues. Her physio gave her a resistance band to work on those rotator cuffs at home and I thought I would provide some cool exercises for shoulder stability and even arm strength using the resistance bands or therabands. These exercises can be done anywhere – at home, in the office… on holiday…
Rotator cuff exercises
There are 4 basic movements that you can do with the resistance bands for your rotator cuff – abduction, adduction, internal and external rotation. You may need to tie the theraband on to a door knob (with the door closed) or a handle or something that is sturdy and small. Remember that the rotator cuff actually consists of 4 muscles – supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. You want to work all 4 of them as they are considered to be the deep stabilizers of the shoulder joint.
2. Find neutral position of your shoulder blades – shoulder blades are flat and flush across your back (superior angle is aligned vertically at T2 spinous process).
3. Use your breath – exhale when performing the exercises to recruit the deep stabilizers and inhale to control. Take your time and don’t rush. Your level 1 muscles take a while to wake up and the exercises should be low load, slow and anticipatory.
Standing on the Resistance Bands
When standing on them, you can hold on to the sides and do lots of cool exercises. My personal favorite is just to do standing elevation and depression and shoulder circles in both directions. Your arms are straight and long by your sides. You can really feel the pull of the resistance from the bands and is great if you tend to elevate or lift your shoulders up.
You can also do arm abduction, just lifting your arms straight out to the side, bicep curls and standing spine twist. This can also be done in a lunge position for more of a challenge.
Do your pilates roll-downs with the bands at your feet and holding on to the ends. Knees can be straight or bent. Add in a bicep curl or spine rotation when you roll down about half way in a C-curve. Besides working your arms, you are also working your abs at the same time!
Lunging tricep press and chest expansion
In a lunge position with the front foot on the resistance bands, you can hold both ends again and do tricep presses (with the elbows bent by your sides and keeping still in space) or chest expansion with the arms long and extended. Be careful not to hyperextend your elbows and keep your shoulders and hips square to the front the whole time.
Where to buy good quality resistance bands?
Resistance bands can be bought at really cheap prices on Ebay and at most sport shops. Your local physiotherapist should also have a supply and stock them. However, I have bought a few cheap ones from Ebay before and they just don’t last. Within 4 uses, they broke and tore apart and they seem to have a yucky rubbery smell that is sticky in your hands as well.
I highly recommend 2 brands – Theraband and Sissel. Therabands are widely available in the USA and they may be a little more expensive but you can buy them in bulk or in a shorter length. My first resistance band was a green Theraband given to me by my physio back when I was in uni, and 5 years later, I am still using it.
Another brand is Sissel which is a brand from Sweden and is widely available in Europe and USA. The Fun and Active Bands come in 2 resistance levels and comes packaged in a compact tube container with a small exercise poster which can be quite handy too. Check out my pilates store at: Home Pilates Supplieswhere we stock a small range of Sissel products like foam rollers and pilates circles and well as Lululemon clothing. At the moment, we only ship to Australia. Otherwise you can always look for them in your home county and find a local supplier.