Exercise on Your Time: Neck & Shoulders

Dedicated to Nikki who inspires me by gettin' after eliminating her neck & shoulder pain from 8+yrs as a momma.


This is a continuation on my last post "Pain Points: Neck & Shoulders" which is worth a read to understand WHY the following are so important for shoulder & upper back pain-free-ness.


Problem: Neck & shoulder pain; not enough time to go to a gym

Solution: STRENGTHEN the upper back & shoulder rotator cuff with resistance bands & the Nike app

Why: most people think pain = too tight = need to STRETCH, but with most shoulder issues pain = over-stretched = need to STRENGTHEN


As a massage therapist I beat on my shoulders & arms while leaning over clients on the table. Self-care for my shoulders is essential, and I work these exercises in to my day-to-day life, mostly at home or in transit: Resistance band exercises and Nike App workouts.


Resistance Band Exercises


I bought a great pack of bands on Amazon for $11 that come in different resistance levels from 'X-light' to 'X-heavy'. I carry the Medium level in my backpack at all times, and keep the Light in my office for quick tune-ups between clients.


Pro Tip: on all movements below, go slowly as you move away from starting position AND back to it. Making a muscle extend under tension is what actually builds the muscles.


1. "Part the Red Sea" (Shoulder abduction)

Placement: Arms parallel in front of your body at shoulder height, elbows bent. Band around forearms, nestled against bent elbows.

Action: Open arms to the sides as far as you can. 10 reps x 3 sets (30 reps total). **be sure to squeeze shoulder blades**

Muscles Worked: Deltoids (especially medial & posterior portions... those most forgotten & abused of our shoulder girdle), Rhomboids, Traps.

Note: Bring your arms back together very slowly for maximum strength-building.


2. "The Jazzersize" (diagonal pull down)

Placement: Grasp the band in both hands. Hold one end above your head, keeping the shoulder down.

Action: Pull your other hand down away from the stabilized hand (isotonic movement). The stabilizing hand stays in place as you move the other hand toward and away from it in reps (isometric movement). 10 reps x 3 sets (30 reps total)

Muscles Worked: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids, Pecs, Teres, Supraspinatus

Note: I find this exercise most impactful for the stabilizing muscles


3. "Start the Lawnmower" (diagonal pull up)

Placement: Grasp the band in both hands. Hold one end near your waist with elbow bent

Action: Push (or is it a pull?) your other hand up away from the stabilized hand (isotonic). The stabilizing hand stays in place as you move the other hand away from and toward it in reps (isometric). 10 reps x 3 sets (30 reps total)

Muscles Worked: Supra- & Infraspinatus, biceps, Deltoids, Traps



All these exercises target the back side of the shoulder. An overwhelming number of rotator cuff injuries & surgeries happen because the supraspinatus tears from being over worked yet weak. A similar thing happens with the posterior Deltoid. Rhomboid and upper Trapezius strength is essential to avoid pain from slumped shoulders (they're antagonists to the super strong Pectorals in the front).


Nike App Workouts


Before using the "Nike Training Club" app I poo-pooed the branding & methodology of targeted hyper-athletic home workouts... but that was before I joined the modern world of 'busy' and seated computer work.


Now this app is an indispensable part of my body maintenance & time management. It's targeted at iron-pumpers, athletes, & pro-track spirants but don't let that put you off! There's something helpful for everyone and every goal, and it's choose-your-challenge.


Click to get the Nike app for Android

Click to get the Nike app for Apple


Why the app is helpful:

- it's FREE! With 'pro' upgrade subscription optional

- no equipment needed for many workouts

- Workouts range from 8 to 45 minutes

- You can search by muscle group, workout type (endurance, mobility, strength, "yoga"), equipment, short workouts, and athlete workouts.

- Each exercise has a vocal & visual guide and timer to show you how to do the exercise, encourage you, and tell you how much longer you have (to suffer).

- workouts are modulated (sets of different exercises combined in each workout) and you can repeat or skip workouts as you like.

- You can save & favorite workouts to find them quickly

- tracking & rewards: after completing workouts you can record your effort level & location to reference later. You earn 'badges' over time to show off your bad-assery.


My regular workouts for shoulders & upper body:

1. Tank Top Arms: 20 min, weights

2. Abs & Arms: 13 min, weights

2. Core Countdown: 16 min, no equipment


Here's to life-long happy shoulders,

Eli McCutchen, LMT

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