Codman Shoulder Exercises

Side view of muscular man on a gray background rubbing his shoulder.

Whether you call them Codman's shoulder exercises or Codman's pendulum exercises, this gentle swinging motion usually comes prescribed by a doctor or physical therapist after a shoulder injury to help ease pain and re-mobilize joints. Though you should always consult with the medical pros before starting physical therapy, these low-impact stretches can also lend themselves to part of your regular exercise warm-up routine.

Got a shoulder and a chair or table? Then you've got all you need to give your shoulders a little swing.

Get Your Stretch On

For the traditional Codman pendulum exercise — which is a sort of three-part stretching routine done from one starting position — you'll need a sturdy table or chair that's about thigh-high. Once you've got your comfy clothes on, you're ready to go.

Bend at your waist, stabilizing yourself with one hand flat on the surface of a table or grasping the top edge of a chair. Keep your feet flat on the floor, with legs a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. The knee closest to your support arm should bend a bit, while your other leg is straight is pointed slightly outward. Allow your arm to dangle freely, and you're in the starting pose.

Rock your body weight so that your dangling arm slowly moves in a circle. Make sure your legs drive the rocking motion. Do about five to 20 full circles, then reverse your position and focus on the other arm.

Return to the starting position and then move your arm gently forward and backward about five to 20 times on each arm.

Top off the routine by returning to the starting pose and moving each arm from side-to-side up to 20 times.

In all, shoot for about 5 to 10 minutes worth of pendulums.

But Should You Shoulder Stretch?

So if you don't have a rotator cuff injury and your PT hasn't prescribed you pendulums, you might wonder if light stretches like Codman's technique have any place in your routine. The answer is a resounding "maybe."

Contrary to old-school belief, stretching before your workout doesn't significantly reduce your chance of injury, boost your performance or lessen post-pump pain. However, it definitely doesn't hurt anything either.

Young female athlete in a sunny park performing a static shoulder stretch.

Use Codman's technique to loosen up a stiff shoulder.

What stretching can do is help make your muscles more supple, which gives you a slight increase in flexibility (hence the role of Codman's pendulums in physical therapy). If you want a better range of motion before doing a shoulder exercise like push-ups, presses or raises, adding some pendulums to your routine might help prepare your arms for the movements ahead.

The Pendulum Swings Your Way

Have Codman's shoulder exercises helped you and your joints out of a tough spot, or have you used them at home just to release a bit of pre-workout tension? Do you swear by stretches before your shoulder routine, or can you go without them? Let us (and our shoulders) know in the comments below.