Dynamic Shoulder Isometric Exercise

Brett Sears

If you have shoulder pain, you may benefit from the skilled services of a physical therapist to help determine the cause of your pain and to restore normal mobility around your shoulder joint. Your PT can assess your condition and teach you the right things to do to get your shoulder moving again.

There are many causes of shoulder pain. If weakness is found in your shoulder and rotator cuff muscles, your physical therapist may use specific exercises to help improve the strength and muscular function of these muscles.

The dynamic isometric rotator cuff strengthening exercise is a great exercise to perform to help improve the function of all of your rotator cuff muscles. The exercise is simple to do with a friend or family member and an elastic resistance band.

When to Perform the Dynamic Isometric Shoulder Exercise

Although you can perform the dynamic isometric shoulder exercise at any time, there are specific times when it can be of optimal benefit. These times may include:

  • After surgery when you are trying to engage your rotator cuff muscles.
  • As a progression from basic shoulder isometric exercise.
  • To improve neuromuscular recruitment of your shoulder and rotator cuff.
  • To improve upper extremity proprioception.
  • To improve stability around your shoulder joint.

Before starting the dynamic isometric shoulder strengthening exercise, check in with your healthcare provider or physical therapist to be sure the exercise is safe for you to do.

How to Perform the Exercise

To perform the dynamic isometric rotator cuff exercise, first, obtain an elastic resistance band from your local physical therapist. 

  1. Lie on your back on a firm bed or on the floor.
  2. Hold one end of the resistance band in your hand.
  3. Have your friend hold the opposite end of the band.
  4. Hold your arm straight up in the air with your elbow straight.
  5. Have your friend pull on the band so that it is taught.
  6. While your friend keeps tension on the band, have him walk around you in varying directions.
  7. Make sure to keep your arm straight and pointed straight up towards the ceiling.

Your friend can walk around you in different directions for about 1 or 2 minutes or until your shoulder feels fatigued. While your friend is walking around you, he or she can vary the amount of resistance on the band to challenge your rotator cuff muscles more. That way, your shoulder has to respond to both varying directions and the varying resistance on the band.

To improve your upper extremity proprioception or spatial awareness, simply perform the exercise with your eyes closed.

The dynamic isometric shoulder exercise can be performed up to 4 times a day or as often as prescribed by your physical therapist. Be sure to stop the exercise if you are feeling increased shoulder pain, as this can be a signal that something bad is happening to your shoulder or rotator cuff.

A Word From Verywell

If you have shoulder weakness or pain or if you are recovering from shoulder surgery, you may benefit from isometric shoulder strengthening exercises. The dynamic isometric shoulder exercise is a great way to add a little variation to your isometric routine and train your muscles to react to various forces that you may encounter throughout your day.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Penn Medicine. Shoulder Pain.

  2. Myers NL, Toonstra JL, Smith JS, Padgett CA, Uhl TL. Sustained isometric shoulder contraction on muscular strength and endurance: a randomized clinical trial. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015;10(7):1015-1025.

  3. Massachusetts General Hospital. Shoulder - Torn Rotator Cuff.

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.