How to Make Your Own Shoulder Pulley

A DIY Physical Therapy Tool Made With 3 Simple Items

After a shoulder injury, the primary goal of rehabilitation is to improve your mobility and range of motion of your shoulder. One of the tools commonly used for this is the shoulder pulley.

A shoulder pulley is an exercise device that places controlled pressure on an injured shoulder joint. Doing so gently stresses contracted muscles and connective tissues, increasing flexibility and strength without compromising the joint itself.

When used appropriately, the shoulder pulley is a safe and effective tool for the treatment of shoulder injuries, including:

If your physical therapist is using a shoulder pulley as part of your rehabilitation program, you can continue treatment at home by purchasing a home version for around $25 or more. Or, better yet, you could save a few dollars by making your own with a few simple tools and everyday materials.

Here is a quick and easy step-by-step guide that can help:


Gather Your Supplies

Make the top hanger by cutting a length of line approximately one foot long.

Verywell / Brett Sears

To begin, gather all of the materials and equipment you need to build the pulley. Most can be found at home or your local hardware store for less than $8. You only need three to four items:

  • A small pulley that can accommodate a 5/16" rope
  • A 12-foot to 14-foot length of 5/16" polyester rope
  • Household scissors
  • Discarded tubing or garden hose for handles (optional)

Polyester rope is preferred because it is soft and glides easily on the pulley wheel. It is also pliable enough so that you can close a door on it without damaging the door. This is important since the pulley will be anchored in this way.

While a bigger rope may feel comfortable in your hand, you will probably be unable to close the door on it. If anything, it is better to have a thinner rope than a thicker one.


Make the Pulley Hanger

Tie a rope to the top of the pulley

Verywell / Brett Sears

Once you have obtained all of the necessary supplies, you will start by cutting a one-foot length of rope to make your pulley hanger. Simply string the rope through the top of the pulley and tie a double overhand knot to secure (as pictured). A double overhand knot is simply a basic overhand knot done twice.

There should be around two inches of rope on one side of the knot and nine inches on the other.


Create the Pulley Anchor

The knot in the top of the line hangs over your door.

Verywell / Brett Sears

To make the anchor, tie another double overhand knot on the longer end of the hanging rope. The knot will be situated on the outside of the door when shut and prevent the rope from slipping out.

If the anchor is small or looks flimsy, make addition knots to ensure the pulley system is properly anchored when installed.


Build Your Pulley Line

Tie a loop in the end of your clothesline after feeding it through the pulley.

Verywell / Brett Sears

Cut another piece of rope around 10 to 12 feet long. Don't worry if it is too long; you can adjust the size of the line to fit your needs.

Feed one end of the rope through your pulley, tying the end of the rope into a handle using an overhand loop knot (as pictured). Like the overhand knot, the overhand loop is the most basic of knots. To make one:

  1. Create a loop large enough to accommodate your hand.
  2. Take the loop and create another loop, passing the end once or twice through the circle.
  3. Pull tight to secure.

The loop also prevents the rope from slipping out of the pulley.


Create a Second Handle

Make sure you tie a loop in both ends of the line of your homemade pulleys.

Verywell / Brett Sears

Create another looped handle at the opposite end of your rope. Some people like to string a four-inch length of plastic tubing (or a cut piece of a discarded garden hose) into the loop to create a comfortable grip.


Hang Your Pulleys

Homemade shoulder pulley system.

Verywell / Brett Sears

Once you have made your pulley, sling the knotted anchor over the top the door and shut it. The door should be able to close tightly, and the knot should hold firmly when tugged.

You now have a basic but effective shoulder pulley system you can use at home. Speak with your physical therapist to determine which pulley exercises are most appropriate for you.

Once appropriate healing has taken place, you may wish to progress from the basic range of motion exercises to more active shoulder resistance exercises, some of which include:

A Word From Verywell

If you have a shoulder injury or have undergone shoulder surgery, you can usually benefit from physical therapy. You can further speed recovery by continuing treatment at home.

But, take extra caution if you do so, meeting with your therapist regularly to ensure you don't do too much and end up reinjuring yourself.

Certain movements may cause discomfort during rehab but should never cause pain. If there is even a hint of pain, stop and let your physical therapist know.

2 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. Baumgarten KM, Osborn R, Schweinle WE, et al. Are Pulley Exercises Initiated 6 Weeks After Rotator Cuff Repair a Safe and Effective Rehabilitative Treatment?: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Sports Med. 2016;44(7):1844-51. doi:10.1177/0363546516640763.

  2. van der Meijden OA, Westgard P, Chandler Z, Gaskill TR, Kokmeyer D, Millett PJ. Rehabilitation after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair: current concepts review and evidence-based guidelinesInt J Sports Phys Ther. 2012;7(2):197–218. PMID: 22530194

Additional Reading

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