Exercises to Keep Your Arms Healthy!


A few years back, I was finally past the crux on my project, Humpy at Coopers Rock in West Virginia. I was so excited to be on the verge of completing my first v4 when I noticed a sudden pain in my right shoulder. There was no way that I was going to drop down so close to finishing, so I ignored the pain and made it to the top. My friends and I were ecstatic, but I quickly discovered that I was unable to raise my right arm. Next, I tried to remove my climbing shoes but I couldn’t do that either. Something was obviously wrong!

I probably should have been more concerned, but I decided to continue climbing instead. I managed to get into the starting position of my next project, Helicopter. As soon as I weighted my right arm, I heard a big POP and felt a HUGE wave of relief. It was at this point, I realized that I had dislocated my shoulder on Humpy and had reduced it (placed the shoulder back in the joint) on Helicopter!

Throughout the next year, I manage to dislocate the same shoulder several times. Once a shoulder is dislocated, the ligaments around it are stretched, making repeat dislocations more likely! Tired of the pain, I finally decided to do rehab exercises. Since I started doing the exercises, I have not dislocated my shoulder again! Now, I do these exercises regularly to avoid having any injuries in the future.

The exercises that I am about to share with you are also good for rotator cuff injuries. These exercises are for informational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice and are not a substitute for being evaluated and treated by your regular physician or physical therapist.

Exercise 1: External rotation

For this exercise, you will need an exercise band. Place a rolled up towel (or pillowcase or shirt) between your torso and your arm. Bend your arm at 90 degrees. Without dropping the towel, rotate at the shoulder and bring your hand away from your body.

Exercise 2: I-Y-Ts

These are my favorite! You can do them so many different ways. For these, you can use an exercise band, an exercise ball, and rings. I only have one exercise band at home, but its best if you have two so you can do two arms at once to save time.

You make the shape of the letter with your arms! For the ‘I’s, raise your arms and keep them close to your ears. For the ‘Y’s, raise your arms further away from your ears, mimicking a Y. Pretend you’re doing the YMCA dance! For the ‘T’s, imagine your body is the vertical line portion of a T and then raise your arms horizontally to cross it!

Exercise 3: Stretching the Extensors

Often, when I’m finished climbing for the day, my hand is stuck in a claw formation. At first, I thought this was normal and fine but later I started developing finger pain. One of my chiropractors told me that I need to stretch my extensor tendons because my flexor tendons were being overworked.

For this exercise, you can use rubber bands, your hands, or go on Amazon and search for “grip saver” to buy a special tool (like the one I use). Place each finger in a rubberband and then extend all your fingers at once. I pretty much carry this ball with me everywhere so I can do it at work, at home, and in between sets at the gym. Its a life saver!

If you have any go-to shoulder exercises, please share! I would love to add more to my repertoire.