Isometric Exercises for Shoulder

Isometric exercises for the shoulder are often essential in cases where pain has had an impact on shoulder function. Here, we attempt to give you a better understanding of isometric exercises and the many benefits that come with this form of physical therapy.

What are isometric exercises? Isometric exercises are really a way to describe muscle contractions. An isometric muscle contraction is when your muscle exerts force but doesn’t change its length. Basically, your joint doesn’t move.


If you suffer from shoulder pain, your doctor or a physical therapist may suggest different types of isometric exercises, including passive and active range of motion exercises, as well as rotator cuff strengthening.

Benefits and Tips for Isometric Exercises

There are many isometric exercise benefits, including that they can build strength. They are great because they don’t add a lot of stress to the joints.

The list below covers many of the benefits you can get if you commit to isometric shoulder exercises.

  • Time – Most isometric exercises can be completed in a matter of just minutes, which is helpful for people with busy lives. One of the biggest reasons injured individuals don’t practice physical therapy is that they think they don’t have the time.
  • Rehabilitation – Doing isometric exercises can improve flexibility and muscles following surgery. This is particularly true when it comes to the ball-and-socket joints such as the shoulder and the knee. It is believed that the exercises can minimize arthritis and reduce your risk of getting osteoporosis, a medical condition whereby the bones become brittle and fragile. People with osteoporosis have a tendency to break bones.
  • Increases strength – A shoulder shrug after a rotator cuff surgery is a good example of an isometric exercise that can help to build strength. Holding the shrug for just 10-second intervals can be really helpful. You can perform this kind of isometric exercise wherever you are.
  • Body alignment – Research shows that isometric exercises tend to improve body posture and spine alignment. Studies show a relationship between patients with misaligned spinal columns and issues with joint pain.
  • Control – Isometric exercises for the shoulder, as well as other parts of the body can help improve control over the body. Part of the reason for this is that deep breathing is often suggested along with the actual movements. The breathing relaxes you and releases any tension you might have.
  • Equipment – It’s not just saving time that makes isometrics attractive for those who are suffering a shoulder injury; isometric exercises can also save money because you don’t need to purchase a lot of special equipment to do them.
  • Age – There is no age limit to isometric exercises. Anyone at any age (even elderly) can perform these exercises if given the go-ahead by a doctor.

Isometric shoulder strengthening exercises can decrease muscle elasticity, but only when you do excessive isometrics without doing other types of exercises. The best approach is to spread the isometric exercises throughout a workout. In other words, they should be done in between other exercises.

Isometric Exercises for Shoulder

While there are many different isometric exercises, the following are isometrics specifically for the shoulder.

  • Isometric shoulder flexion – For this exercise, you should stand facing a wall and bend the elbow of the shoulder you want to exercise. Make a fist and gently press into the wall. Hold for five seconds and then release. Repeat the exercise up to 15 times but be careful not to apply too much force, especially in the beginning. This movement makes reaching to put dishes away or adjust a rear view mirror possible.
  • Isometric Abduction – This isometric exercise requires you to stand beside a wall and stretch one hand at a time sideways. You should push the wall with as much strength as you can, hold the contraction for about 10 seconds, release and then repeat up to two more times. This exercise makes everyday tasks like putting a shirt on possible.
  • Isometric shoulder internal rotation – In a standing position in front of a wall or door frame, place your feet hip-width apart and bend your elbows slightly. Push the wall with your right forearm and engage your core muscles. Press the doorframe sideways as hard as you can. Hold the contraction for up to 12 seconds and repeat anywhere from three to five times. You can switch arms and do the internal rotation over again. This exercise uses the same muscles that are activated when you reach behind you to tuck a shirt in or clasp a bra.
  • Isometric shoulder external rotation – There are several external rotation exercises. One favorite exercise is the flasher. It calls for the use of a resistance band. You simply pull both ends of the band at the same time to challenge the external rotation muscles. This exercise can help with activities like washing your hair or reaching for a seat belt in the car.
  • Isometric shoulder hold with towel – Form a straight line with a long towel and step on to one end of the towel with your left leg. Grab the other end of the towel with your left arm. With a feet slightly bent, raise the left hand up until it is parallel to the ground. Hold until you can feel pressure (usually about 30 seconds) and then switch sides and repeat the same exercise for the right arm. You can do up to 10 repetitions.


If you have never done isometric exercises, it is best to begin with about 25 percent effort and slowly progress towards 100 percent effort. You will find that the more you do the movements, the easier the exercises become.

Anyone who has recently had shoulder surgery should speak to their doctor before starting isometric exercises or any other type of shoulder therapy.

Also read:

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


Related Reading: