shoulder dislocations exercise

Why you should do shoulder dislocations

Shoulder dislocations is a one of the best exercises for overall shoulder health, it will help you increase mobility and range of motion of the joint. The exercise is also useful for preparing the shoulders for overhead movements, especially if you regularly lift weights and do exercises like shoulder presses or the military press.

Dislocations involve scapula work through various motions, including elevation, depression, protraction and retraction. Strengthening the scapula is important for shoulder health as it’s main function is to create stability in the arm and the shoulder joint. Stability in a different ranges of motion is key to prevent injuries.

Tools to use

The shoulder dislocation exercise can be performed with any item that is straight and light – as long as it forces you to keep the arms straight throughout the movement. You can perform it with a resistance band or even a towel, however ideally you would use something that does not flex as easily, like an exercise stick. In case you don’t have one yet, don’t worry – a broomstick from your household will do just fine.
Using the exercise stick instead of a resistance band helps keeping the same grip width throughout the movement. This increases the stretching effect in the shoulders and chest. At the same time, you will be working on your forearms and wrists which are not as involved when performing the exercise with a resistance band.

How to perform shoulder dislocations correctly

  • Stand straight and hold an exercise stick/broomstick (or a resistance band) in your hands in front of your body.
  • Start slowly raising both of your arms in a circular motion until your hands end up behind the back (in front of your body -> overhead -> behind the back).
  • Keep your arms straight and elevate the shoulders when overhead to properly activate the scapula.
  • Keep the rib cage down by engaging your core and glutes. This will prevent your body from “cheating” by going into lumber extension to “find” the range of motion in the spine instead of training it in the shoulders
    anterior tilt
  • Use a full grip by grabbing your fingers around the exercise stick to add the benefit of using and training the wrists as well.

Shoulder dislocations exercise progression

  • Start with a wide grip – the further away your hands are, the easier it will be on your shoulders.
  • If you are not able to perform the movement yet or feel any pain even with the widest grip possible, switch to a resistance band instead of the exercise stick. The band will stretch on the difficult parts of the movement, allowing you to perform the full range of motion.
  • Once your mobility improves and the dislocations become easy, start by slowly bringing your grip width closer. Experiment to find the right width that is challenging enough but still feels comfortable and does not cause any pain.
  • Finally, you can add resistance to the exercise by using weights. Try putting the stick through a small plate (1.25kg/3lb) and balance the weight by slowly performing the movement.

shoulder dislocations weighted

Exercise variations

The standard version described above is done standing but there are other ways that you can try the exercise.

Reverse/underhand dislocation

Common way to perform the exercise is overhand, meaning that you start the movement with a supinated grip (palms facing the body). The reverse shoulder dislocation is done with a pronated grip instead (palms facing away from the body).

supinated and pronated grip

Bent over

In this version you bend your body to a 90 degree angle. Then, perform the same circular motion while keeping the torso straight and parallel to the ground.

Prone shoulder dislocations

The exercise is performed in a similar way but this time you are laying on the stomach. While it might seem easier to do the movement since the range of motion is shorter, it is actually a lot more difficult and should only be performed when you have already progressed with the standard – standing version.
The motion is initiated at the point where your muscles are weakest. At the same time there is no momentum generated, so your trapezius muscles will be activated and trained a lot more compared to the standing or bent over versions of the exercise.