Shoulder exercises that are assisted by gravity work your muscles whether you are a serious bodybuilder training for competition, need increased range of motion and flexibility, are recovering from an injury or surgery, or need help with rounded shoulders. The major difference between gravity-assisted shoulder exercises used in physical therapy and those used in competition weight lifting is the type of movement and amount of weight used. Some shoulder exercises can be used by both bodybuilders and an arthritis sufferer.
Craig Ballantyne, strength and conditioning coach for athletes and a writer on BodyBuilding.com, created a shoulder workout plan designed to reduce shoulder injuries with some preventive exercises. Many of the exercises he suggests use free weights which rely on gravity for resistance. The reverse fly with external rotation is one example of gravity assisting your arm's return to a start position while controlling the dumbbells. The dumbbell shrug uses heavy weight to allow gravity to create more tension on the shoulders. In contrast, the three-quarter shoulder press requires lighter weights to allow the arms to work with gravity to exercise the deltoid shoulder muscles.
Not everyone is a bodybuilder. Many people who are older, suffer with arthritis, or have lost some range of motion due to lack of use could benefit from gravity-assisted shoulder exercises to keep their shoulders flexible. A simple-to-do exercise is the arm circle. Stand with your arms out to form your body into a T and rotate your arms in a 1-foot circle for 10 seconds. As this exercise becomes too easy for you, add light weights. The Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma recommends the diagonal shoulder pattern in their upper-body strengthening-exercise program. The movement mimics the cross-body motion of unbuckling a seatbelt and lifting the arm up, with a small weight to increase the gravitational stretch.
Gravity-assisted shoulder exercises are an integral part of postsurgery or postinjury rehabilitation. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests the gravity-assisted movement of the circular pendulum exercise during the surgery recovery period. Shrugs are also used by physical therapists with little to no weight to loosen the shoulder up. Shoulder extension and flexion, external and internal shoulder rotations and the bilateral dowel raise are other exercises your physical therapist may add into your rehabilitation routine.
Sitting at your desk and computer all day frequently causes rounded shoulders along with aches and pains. WebMD.com offers several gravity-assisted shoulder exercises to decrease pain and correct your posture. Exercises that the website advocates include the use of dumbbells to increase the resistance. The lateral raise and alternating front raise both work with gravity to exercise the deltoid shoulder muscles as you raise your arms from the side and from the front. Gravity helps to stretch and lengthen the shoulder muscles during the prone shoulder extension as you lift the dumbbells behind you while you are lying face down.