7 Shoulder Stretches and Strengthening Exercises to Prevent Injury

Kevin Blanchard Injury Prevention, Pain-Free Living

All surfers know the feeling of being landlocked due to sickness, injury, or work duties, taking its toll on cardiovascular fitness, surfing performance, and mental state. It is important at any skill level to maintain full body health to reduce your risk of injury while trying to perform your best in the water. The most common injuries amongst surfers are shoulder pathologies. Surfing requires repetitive shoulder rotation which can lead to common overuse injuries like shoulder impingement syndrome, tendonitis, rotator cuff tears, or labral pathology. It is important as a surfer to establish efficient shoulder mechanics to increase your time in the water, increase paddle power, and ultimately avoid injury.

Postural dysfunction and poor postural habits outside of the water can lead to injury in the water. As we increase our time sitting at a computer watching surf contests, or scrolling through Instagram on our phones, postural tendencies of forward head, rounded shoulders, and thoracic spine kyphosis develop. Let’s do a quick experiment. Exaggerate rounding the shoulders forward and jutting your head forward, now try to reach your arms over your head as if you were going to paddle. Difficult Right? Gaining postural awareness and performing specific exercises like the ones below can help you avoid transferring poor postural habits into the water.

We have all seen the young surfers (groms) paddling around the lineup with endless energy, arched high on their boards with only the lower ribs in contact with the the board moving effortlessly. In order to channel your inner grom we need efficiency in spinal mobility, shoulder range of motion, scapular stabilization, and rotator cuff strength.  Utilize these 7 exercises to maintain strength and flexibility necessary to maintain longevity of your surfing.

  1. Mid-thoracic Stretch
    Sitting on a chair with the top hitting your mid back, place your feet on the ground with your rear against the back of the seat. Place your hands behind your neck. Slowly lift and arch over the back of the chair while keeping  your rear from sliding forward.  Hold for 20-30 seconds.  Release and repeat 2-3 times.Mid Thoracic Stretch
  2. Eagle Arms Stretch 
    Stand with your arms straight out in front of you parallel to the floor.  Swing your arms toward each other, bringing your right elbow over your left. Then bend your elbows, so the backs of your hands are touching. Now, hook one hand over the other so that your palms are facing each other.  Hold for 30secs and repeat on the opposite side by bringing your left elbow over your right.Eagle Arms Stretch
  3. Inferior Glide Band Stretch
    Utilizing an elastic band, place one end underneath your foot and loop the other end onto the superior aspect of your arm at the humeral head.   Rest our lower arm vertically on the wall. Now relax your shoulder and gently lean forward letting your hip move back, increasing the downward force from the band. Hold for 30 secs and repeat on the opposite side.
    Inferior Glide Band Stretch
  4. Scapular Depression
    Seated on a bench using yoga blocks or books, place both hands palm down and fingers pointed forward. Hands should be placed equal with shoulders. With Straight elbows, slowly push downward through the hands sliding your shoulder blades downwards to elevate your body. Hold the elevated position for 10 seconds and lower body slowly. Perform 10 times for 2 sets.
    Scapular Depression Scapular Depression
  5. Prone Y’s with Trunk Lift
    Lie on your stomach with arms above head at 45 degree angles. Lift both arms above your body pulling your shoulder blades toward your back pockets, then lift your chest off the mat. Hold for 5 seconds, lower the chest and arms slowly back to mat. To advance you can use weight in your hands. Repeat 10 times for 2 sets.Prone Y with Trunk Lift
  6. Rotator Cuff Strengthening External Rotation
    Start with a band (or cable machine) anchored in front of you at hip level. Raise your arm raised 90 degrees away from your side with elbow bent to 90 degrees. Next, roll your shoulder back so that your forearm is perpendicular to the ground. Repeat 10 times for 3 sets.Rotator Cuff Strengthening External Rotation Rotator Cuff Strengthening External Rotation
  7. Rotator Cuff Strengthening Internal Rotation
    Start with a band (or cable machine) anchored in front of you at eye level. Raise your arm raised 90 degrees away from your side with elbow bent to 90 degrees. Next, roll your shoulder forward so that your forearm is parallel to the ground. Repeat 10 times for 3 sets.
    Rotator Cuff Strengthening Internal Rotation Rotator Cuff Strengthening Internal Rotation